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Court Sets Aside Award in Sex-Bias Case

June 22, 1989|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today set aside an award of more than $180,000 in attorneys' fees stemming from a 1970 sex-bias lawsuit against Trans World Airlines by female flight attendants.

In a 6-2 decision, the court said people who intervene on the side of defendants in civil rights cases--but who themselves are not found to have violated anyone's rights--generally cannot be forced to reimburse the lawyer fees incurred by those who successfully sue.

The complicated case stems from a lawsuit filed 19 years ago that challenged TWA's policy of firing female flight attendants when they became mothers.

The suit was resolved in 1979 when TWA agreed to reinstate fired women and grant them seniority from the date of their dismissal.

The airline, which had abandoned its "no motherhood" policy soon after the suit was filed, also created a $3-million fund for the fired attendants.

The settlement was challenged by the Independent Federation of Flight Attendants on behalf of TWA flight attendants who could have suffered by being laid off before those with the newly won seniority.

The union acted in the case as an intervenor, a concerned third party not named as a plaintiff or defendant.

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