CHICAGO (CBS) — A United Airlines pilot is accused of sex harassment for allegedly posting explicit photos of a female United flight attendant on the Internet, and the airline did nothing to stop it, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Antonio, says the airline “violated federal law by subjecting a female flight attendant to a hostile work environment of sexual harassment over a multi-year period,” according to an EEOC news release.
According to the lawsuit, the United pilot frequently posted sexually explicit images of the flight attendant to various websites, making reference to the flight attendant’s name, home airport, and sometimes referencing the airline’s tagline “Fly the Friendly Skies.” The lawsuit alleges that the posts were seen by co-workers and adversely affected the flight attendant’s working environment.
In September, 2016, the pilot, 62-year-old Mark Joseph Uhlenbrock of Chesterfield, Missouri, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to internet stalking.
“Uhlenbrock admitted that from the end of their romantic relationship in January 2006 to August 2015, he caused substantial emotional distress to his female victim by posting nude photographs of her on the Internet,” according to a statement at the time from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Western District of Texas.
The EEOC says the airline failed to prevent and correct the pilot’s behavior, even after the flight attendant made numerous complaints.
The conduct would violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment, the EEOC said.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for the flight attendant. The EEOC also is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent the company from engaging in any further gender-discriminatory practices.
“Employers have an obligation to take steps to stop sexual harassment in the workplace when they learn it is occurring through cyber-bullying via the internet and social media,” said Philip Moss, a trial attorney in the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office. “When employers fail to take action, they fail their workers and enable the harassment to continue.”
CBS Chicago is reaching out to United for comment.