United is under fire once again, this time in connection to sexually explicit photos of a flight attendant that one of its pilots allegedly posted online. According to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), United knew the pilot was posting the “humiliating, explicit photos of the flight attendant online” for years without doing anything to stop it.
United Airlines is under fire once again, this time in connection to sexually explicit photos of a flight attendant that one of its pilots allegedly posted online. According to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), United knew the pilot was posting the “humiliating, explicit photos of the flight attendant online” for years without doing anything to stop it.
Included in the photos, the pilot revealed “identifying details about the woman he’d previously dated (such as her home airport and her name) along with the lewd images of her that he frequently shared on an assortment of websites,” according to the suit. Additionally, the suit claims that some of the pilot’s “sexually explicit postings urged readers to ‘look for her when you fly!’ or alluded to the airline’s slogan by suggesting she was a new reason to ‘Fly the Friendly Skies,’” according to the lawsuit. When discussing the complaint, EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez said:
“United was aware of the intimate details of how its pilot was harassing its flight attendant but took no responsibility to put a stop to it…Over a period of many years, the flight attendant had to work every day in fear of humiliation if a co-worker or customer recognized her from the pilot’s postings.”
It’s important to note, however, that the woman spent a few years in a consensual relationship with the pilot, Mark Uhlenbrock, from 2002 to 2006. During their relationship, the woman allowed Uhlenbrock to take “photos and videos of her in provocative poses during sexual interactions.” The woman only learned of the fact that photos of her had been posted online when a “male gate agent in San Antonio told the flight attendant that he had seen nude photos of her on a website for swingers and that he was under the impression he’d been talking to her online, where she had sent him even more nude photos,” according to the suit. That’s when the woman discovered her “boyfriend had been secretly sharing the images she had intended to be private, and in some cases was pretending to be her,” the lawsuit stated.
Soon after learning about the photos, the woman ended the relationship with the pilot. However, throughout the following decade, the pilot “continued to regularly post sexually explicit photos, videos, and stories about her online,” the lawsuit said. During that time, the woman allegedly repeatedly “went to the airline to report the harassment and provided plenty of evidence.” Despite her efforts, though, the airline “failed to prevent and correct the pilot’s behavior,” according to the EEOC.
The suit also argues that United “violated federal law by subjecting the female flight attendant to sexual harassment in a hostile work environment for years.” For those who don’t know, employment discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment, “violates the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” according to the EEOC. Philip Moss, a trial attorney for the EEOC’s San Antonio office chimed in, saying, “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.”
In 2015, Uhlenbrock was arrest by the FBI on stalking charges for “posting nude photos of the woman.” In response to the charges, the pilot pleaded guilty in June 2016 “and was sentenced to 41 months in prison.” Prior to pleading guilty, Uhlenbrock was granted long-term disability in January 2016 by United and “stayed on the airline’s payroll until July 2016…when he was allowed to retire with full benefits.”
When commenting in the airline’s decision, United spokesperson Erin Benson issued the following statement:
“We have reviewed the allegations in the complaint and disagree with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s description of the situation. United does not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace and will vigorously defend against this case.”
Despite the airline’s statement, the lawsuit is seeking “compensatory and punitive damages for the flight attendant, as well as action to keep the kind of harassment the lawsuit alleges from occurring in the future.”