United and Continental planes on the tarmac at Los Angeles International… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
Twenty-four African American pilots and supervisors at United Air Lines filed a lawsuit Tuesday, accusing the airline of a pattern of discrimination that has kept them from being promoted.
The suit, filed in U.S District Court in San Francisco, contends that all 24 employees have worked for United or Continental Airlines, which recently merged with United, for more than 14 years and have been illegally passed over for promotions because of their race.
"We have endured a habitual, longstanding pattern of discriminatory behavior at the hands of United Air Lines," Terry Haynie, a United pilot said in a statement.
In a statement, the airline's parent company, United Continental Holdings Corp., denied the charges and said it will fight the suit.
"United does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind," the statement said. "We believe this lawsuit is without merit and will vigorously defend ourselves."
The suit alleges that the airline operates dual tracks for the promotion of employees -- one for minorities and one for non-minorities. The suit says non-minorities are disproportionately assigned more opportunities for advancement with greater pay and benefits.
Even those minorities promoted to managers are subject to discriminatory practices that minimize further advancement, the suit alleges.
The lawsuit asks that the airline stop such alleged practices and requests punitive damages and attorney fees, which are not disclosed in the lawsuit.
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