United Airlines Settles “Hidden Porn” Lawsuit
by Kathee Brewer
United Airlines has settled a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by a former pilot who claims routinely to have found pornographic images hidden in cockpits on domestic flights.
Capt. Lisa Stout’s attorney said an agreement between the parties prohibited disclosure of the settlement’s details.
According to court documents, Stout claimed to have found pornography on more than 20 flights in 2004 and 2005. She sued the airline for failing to take sufficient steps to uncover the identity of the person or people who left the material behind and prevent them from doing so again. Stout also claimed she was the victim of retaliation after reporting the incidents and that she was unable to work as a result of trauma related to the porn discoveries.
In the lawsuit, Stout alleged that she found the porn hidden under or inside various areas of the cockpit. She logged each discovery in the flight log and had maintenance workers remove the material. The continuing incidents left her traumatized to the point she was required to take medication and ground herself in August 2005, court documents noted.
In its response to Stout’s suit, United argued the former pilot was pursing an art career on the side and sought a way to leave the airline in order to devote herself to art full-time while on extended disability payments. She could not have been offended by the photos of naked women, the airline suggested, because she once worked in an adult store, frequently sketched naked people and often attended art shows at which photographs of naked women were displayed.
United also claimed Stout made false statements to the Federal Aviation Administration, which had the airline known about them at the time, would have justified her dismissal. Details of the FAA statements were redacted from court records.
The suit was settled just weeks before it was scheduled for trial in U.S. District Court in Seattle, where Stout was based while she worked for United. The presiding judge, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, already had ruled Stout would be allowed to seek punitive damages against her former employer.
Stout is not the first female pilot to sue an airline after finding porn on the flight deck. In 1995, Alaska Airlines settled a pornography-related lawsuit filed by pilot Jean Price; in 1998, pilot Tammy Blakey won a $150,000-plus judgment against Continental Airlines.