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United Airlines has announced a new policy regarding the hiring of pilots. The company states:
Over the next decade, United will train 5,000 pilots who will be guaranteed a job with United, after they complete the requirements of the Aviate program – and our plan is for half of them to be women and people of color.
What if that “plan” is inconsistent with selecting the best qualified candidates for guaranteed jobs? If the airline then gives up or modifies its plan, as it should, there is no problem.
But if the company rejects best-qualified white male candidates in adherence to its plan, it will be vulnerable to claims of race and/or sex discrimination. In addition, it will lower the quality of its pilot force — hardly a trivial matter considering the responsibilities of an airline pilot.
How would United defend selecting less qualified pilot trainees due to considerations of race and gender? In its statement, United alluded to “financial barriers that [according to the company] limited access to the airline pilot career path for generations of women and people of color.”
I don’t believe this is a legal defense to an employment discrimination claim.