December 2022 Church & State Magazine

Buddhist Pilot Wins Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

  Buddhist Pilot Wins Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

A Buddhist pilot who declined to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings to treat his substance abuse has won a settlement with United Airlines, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced last month.

After the pilot was diagnosed with alcohol dependency, he lost a required medical certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration and could not work. As a condition of regaining the certificate, United required him to attend an AA program.

The pilot objected to the religious content of the program and offered to attend a Buddhist-based peer-support group instead. United rejected this program.

The EEOC sued on the pilot’s behalf, and the case was recently settled out of court. According to a press release issued by the EEOC, United will pay the pilot $305,000 in back pay and damages, and the airline will allow him to attend the Buddhist-based program. United also agreed to institute a new policy on religious accom­modations and train its employees accordingly.

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