(CN) – Male flight crew members who were fired sexual harassment can’t blame Executive Jet for not firing female co-workers who allegedly participated in the same “raunchy” conversations, the 9th Circuit ruled.
Female flight attendant Robin McCrea had complained to her supervisor that co-workers Gregory Hawn, Michael Prince and Aric Aldrich had sexually harassed her through an “array of conduct including sexualized banter, crude jokes, and the sharing of crude and/or pornographic emails and websites,” according to the ruling.
The men were ultimately fired because of the allegations and later sued Executive Jet Management, claiming gender bias led to their wrongful terminations. Specifically, they argued that female flight attendants, including McCrea, willingly and happily participated in the sexual banter, but none were fired for it.
The airline hired an independent investigator, who determined that McCrea’s complaints were partially true, but that she also participated in, and in some instances instigated, what she later claimed was harassment.
A federal judge dismissed the men’s gender bias claim, finding that their female co-workers were not similarly situated, as they reported to a different supervisor. And even if the groups were similar, the judge added, it was the men’s behavior — not the women’s — that had triggered the lawsuit.
On appeal, a three-judge panel for the 9th Circuit ruled that the two groups were, in fact, similarly situated, but agreed that the men could not prove gender bias.
“Even if Executive Jet believed that the majority of McCrea’s allegations were not corroborated, and that McCrea participated in some of the complained-of conduct, several instances of sexually harassing behavior by Aldrich, Prince and Hawn were undisputed,” Judge J. Clifford Wallace wrote for the San Francisco-based panel.