lawsuits

Gay Airline Employee (Denied Job Because There Were Too Many Gays) Wins $1M Jury Award

Edward Russell, a former Express Jet Airlines employee, won a whopping $1 million during a jury trial where he claimed he was passed up for promotions because he’s gay.

Maine has a little thing called the Human Rights Act, which is all, like, “Don’t discriminate against The Gays, yo.” It took jurors six hours to decide Russell was owed $500,000 for emotional distress, $500,000 for punitive damages, and $47,000 in lost wages, though Russell’s attorney expects the judge to cap the total award at $547,000, which sort of sucks.

But the most interesting part of the story is why Express Jet, which at the time operated regional flights for Continental Airlines in Portland, appears to have passed over Russell for the job: They already had too many gays serving as supervisor.

According to court documents, the company faced a complaint in 2003-04 from three female employees who had unsuccessfully applied for an open supervisory job. At the time, Express Jet managers at the jetport were all gay men. The women complained that the general manager at the time, who was gay, would hire only gay men. The general manager lost his job, according to court documents. Over the next four years, that position became open four times. Russell filled in several times, and wanted the job, but was told by regional managers not to waste his time applying for it, the documents said. “Our theory was they decided they did not want another gay man out there,” Loranger said.

At one point, according to the documents, the company hired a general manager whom a regional executive described as a “real man.” That general manager made disparaging comments about gay people at work, according to the complaint. Russell left the job in 2007 “because of the discriminatory treatment,” court documents said.

And in the ultimate true revenge fantasy, you should note Russell’s new job: He’s the supervisor for the new company that handles Continental’s regional flights at the airport. Booyah.