Women`s Issues/discrimination?


I am a female flight attendant. I am required to perform the exact same duties as similarly situated male flight attendants. I understand an employer has a right to enforce a dress code. What bothers me is the “heel height” requirement on shoes. The male flight attendants have no heel requirement but the females must wear between ½ inch and 2 inches. I know, ½ an inch is nothing, however, that ½ inch could get you written up and cause an adverse employment action; progressive guidance up to termination.  I believe disparate impact occurs as female flight attendants are often singled out and under additional “surveillance” by supervisors. We also have to carry an extra set of flats to wear as “service shoes.” Should we want to wear flats all the time, we must apply for an ADA accommodation or what is referred to as a “comfort shoe request.” The male flight attendants are never singled for their shoes, their “heel height” is never checked, they don’t have to apply for an ADA accommodation and they do not experience additional surveillance. Is this legal?

Dear Amy:

I live in Florida, too, and, coincidentally, I drafted the lead decision for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the 1960s or '70s finding that the airlines violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they hired only female flight cabin attendants for domestic flights and terminated or grounded them on marriage or on their reaching the age of thirty-two or thirty-five.

I cannot tell you whether the policies by your employer violate Title VII as I cannot do the sort of legal research that would be involved to determine that and it might very well need to be determined after the filing of a claim with the EEOC or a lawsuit in the court.

I can, however, suggest some avenues open to you to get a determination of this.  First of all, are you represented by a union that could take this matter up with your employer? I  don't know whether you are complaining just on your own behalf or on behalf of yourself and other flight cabin attendants.  It is always better in complaining to do so as a group, but that is not required.

I know there are unions that represent flight cabin attendants. I would suggest you bring this to the attention of one or more such unions, whether they represent you or not, and ask them to take action.

Finally,you would have the right to file a charge of employment discrimination with your local or state fair employment practices commission and with the EEOC.  I do not know where you live or where the nearest EEOC office would be.  I believe there is one in Tampa; I do not know if there are others in the State. You could contact the Tampa office and inquire about filing a charge.  They might also know about EEOC and court decisions involving your type of complaint.

I should advise you that there are risks to filing a charge and instituing a law suit, the main one of which is you would antagonize your employer and your employer may retaliate against you even though that is a violation of Title VII.

Best of luck!


Sonia Pressman Fuentes
website: www.erraticimpact.com/fuentes

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Sonia Pressman Fuentes


I am an author, public speaker, feminist leader and lawyer. I was the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and a founder of WEAL (Women`s Equity Action League) and FEW (Federally Employed Women). I am an expert in the field of women`s rights to be free of employment discrimination based on sex.


I spent eight years as an attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and worked for one year as a volunteer attorney with the Montgomery County, MD, Human Relations Commission. I have lectured all over the world and the U.S. on women's rights to be free of employment discrimination based on sex and had articles on the subject published in newspapers, magazines, and journals and on the Internet. I also spent 11 years with multinational corporations in the field of EEO and labor law.

I belong to NOW and the Veteran Feminists of America nationally and the Brandeis University National Women's Committee in Sarasota, FL. I am a member of the board of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in Sarasota, FL.

See my Web site at http://www.erraticimpact.com/fuentes for articles written by me, information on my memoir, "Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter," and interviews of me.

I have an LLB from the University of Miami School of Law in Florida.

Awards and Honors
I received a superior performance award at the EEOC and was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, among other awards and honors.

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