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APFA vs. American Airlines: 1990-91

Flight Attendants Win: No Longer Second-Class Citizens
APFA vs. American Airlines: 1990-91

The story as reported in the
Chicago Tribune
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For decades, airline industry rules and regulations discriminated against female flight attendants. It was only through federal lawsuits that they won the right to keep their jobs if they wore glasses, got married or pregnant, or exceeded company age guidelines.

A festering issue at American Airlines in 1990 was the company's long-time discrimination against female attendants based on how much they weighed. In 1989, on the same day that American gave Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) Vice President Sherri Capello her 15-year pin, they fired her for being 11 pounds overweight. "The extent to which overweight people have difficulty in obtaining work goes far beyond what can be justified by medical data and must be due to discrimination," said Dr. Albert Stunkard, an obesity specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, in a Time magazine interview. The union had been filing weight discrimination suits against American since 1974.

In 1990, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission joined the union in a lawsuit against American. Corporate Campaign, Inc.'s media specialist Pat Cammarata worked round the clock to generate massive media coverage and placed APFA officers and members on major news programs and talk shows, including ABC's "Good Morning America, " NBC's "Today" and "The CBS Morning News." The campaign was strongly denounced by the company, but was credited by APFA President Cheryle Leon with forcing a fair agreement. As Time (March 25, 1991) said, the new standards won in the settlement "may tip the scales in favor of equal opportunities."

APFA vs. American Airlines: 1990-91

The story as reported in Time magazine March 25, 1991