Hawn v. Executive Jet Mgmt., Inc., 621 F.3d 991 (2010)

Gregory Hawn, Michael Prince and Aric Aldrich (all pilots) were terminated by Executive Jet Management after a female flight attendant, Robin McCrea, alleged they had sexually harassed her and created a hostile work environment involving an array of conduct including sexualized banter, crude jokes and the sharing of crude and/or pornographic emails and websites. Following their terminations, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of race, sex and national origin. Plaintiffs alleged that a group of female flight attendants (that included McCrea) also traded sexual emails and participated in sexual discussions but that the employer considered the pilots’ terminations to be relatively “risk free” because the pilots were “young, white, American males.” The district court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that plaintiffs had failed to show that similarly-situated employees (the female flight attendants) had engaged in similar conduct but had received more favorable treatment by the employer. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment on one of the two grounds cited by the lower court – that the two groups were not similarly situated because the pilots’ conduct gave rise to a complaint of sexual harassment, while the flight attendants’ alleged conduct did not. (The Ninth Circuit rejected the district court’s conclusion that the two groups were not similarly situated because they reported to different supervisors.) See also Spencer v. World Vision, Inc. 2010 WL 3293706 (9th Cir. 2010) (faith-based humanitarian organization is exempt from Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination).