A federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling Tuesday in a sex discrimination case, holding in a divided opinion that a lower court should have compared an aviation company’s treatment of a female pilot with the more favorable treatment it provided three male pilots.
Shari S. Drerup, who was certified to fly five aircrafts, was hired by Columbus, Ohio-based NetJets Aviation in November 2016, and terminated after her evaluation and training, with the company claiming she was not qualified to fly the plane it had hired her to fly, according to the ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in Shari S. Drerup v. NetJets Aviation Inc.
Ms. Drerup sued the company in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, charging it with sex discrimination. The district court agreed to dismiss the case, and was overturned by the appeals court in its 2-1 ruling.
Ms. Drerup said three male pilots were reassigned to other planes because, just like her, they were hired to fly the same type of aircraft, but could not comfortably and safely fly it because of their stature, although in their case, it was because they were too tall, while Ms. Drerup was too short, according to the ruling.
Ms. Drerup contends the male pilots were “accommodated in a way Drerup was not,” the appeals court ruling said. The district court rejected this argument, stating that unlike them, she had “struggled during similar training,” among other factors.
“However, the district court’s formulation of the similarly situated standard is overly narrow and unmoored from this Court’s precedent,” the ruling said. “The three male pilots were similar to Drerup in all relevant aspects,” it said, in overturning the lower court and remanding the case.
The dissenting opinion said Ms. Drerup had not offered evidence “such that a reasonable jury could reject NetJets’ proffered reasons for firing her.”
Plaintiff attorney Gloria Allred, of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles, said in a statement, “We are thrilled that our client, Shari Drerup, prevailed on her appeal” and “are looking forward to the trial.”
NetJets’ attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.