The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) had a regulation requiring that airplane pilots be under the age of 60. Upon turning 60, all pilots are forced to retire. While this requirement does not extend to all the members of the flight crew, one airline had the policy of extending this mandatory retirement to include their flight engineers, as the flight engineer is the backup pilot, in case of emergency. There pilots working for this airline, upon their 60th birthdays, applied for transfers to the flight engineer positions, rather than retiring. This is unusual, because the flight engineer position is essentially a demotion from pilot. However, the collective bargaining agreement, between the airline and the union, allows current em- ployees to bid on any open position, based on the seniority (The ADEA, 2005).
The airline rejected their applications. The pilots filed suit, and the airline defended with a BFOQ defense. The airline’s arguments included 1) pilots and flight engineers are required to meet the same stringent requirements regarding health. 2) It is cost prohibitive to individually assess all the employees at the age of 60, to see if they have age related problems that make them unable to function as flight engineers. 3) The flight engineer may be called upon to pilot the plane, If the pilot and first officer become incapacitated (The ADEA, 2005).
The workers responded by stating 1) the “age related problems,” such as heart disease, cited by the airline, happen to young, as well as old employees. 2) It would be extremely rare for a pilot an first officer BOTH to become incapacitated, and even more unusual for the flight engineer to then suddenly develop incapacitating health problems (The ADEA, 2005).
1.Is this practice discriminatory?
2. Is the BFOQ defense legitimate?
3. Why, or why not?