Thousands of Air Traffic Controller Candidates Seek Class Action Status in Lawsuit Over FAA Hiring Discrimination

Denver, CO – Attorneys for Mountain States Legal Foundation filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., today seeking to advance class action status for more than 2,500 aspiring air traffic controllers who were harmed by the FAA’s racially discriminatory hiring policies.­­

Class action certification would significantly expand the impact of the current lawsuit, Brigida v. U.S. Department of Transportation. The lawsuit was prompted by the FAA’s 2013 decision to abandon its longtime hiring practice, which relied on a network of university-sponsored Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) programs and a clinically verified aptitude test to train and test future air traffic controllers (ATC).

Under the Obama administration, the FAA abandoned the merit-based CTI program as a basis for hiring new controllers. It implemented hiring based on a “biographical questionnaire” designed to screen out candidates who weren’t members of a preferred minority racial group.

Andrew Brigida, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, was one of several thousand CTI program participants who suffered discrimination because he did not fit the FAA’s new preferred ethnic profile as determined by the biographical questionnaire.

Recently, two new class representatives joined Mr. Brigida in the reenergized lawsuit against the FAA: Matthew Douglas-Cook and Suzanne Rebich.

Mr. Douglas-Cook and Ms. Rebich also suffered a loss of opportunity under the new hiring program. Although they were highly qualified CTI graduates, they, like Brigida, did not score high enough on the FAA’s biographical questionnaire to be considered for ATC positions. Instead, others who had less training and were less qualified were given hiring preference.

“Air traffic controllers play a critical role in safe air travel,” said MSLF general counsel, Zhonette Brown. “By introducing questions of ethnicity and cultural background, the FAA was playing politics with public safety.”

With class action certification now under the court’s consideration, the impact of this case is poised to expand.

“The FAA harmed thousands of applicants who worked hard to gain their skills yet were denied job opportunities,” Ms. Brown added. “We trust that the court will certify the class action and extend justice to all those who were harmed by the FAA’s unlawful actions.”

Mountain States Legal Foundation is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are located outside Denver, Colorado.  

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Brigida v. U.S. Department of Transportation

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