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All sorts of discrimination have occurred through the ages:

discrimination upon basis of race, religion, national origin, sexual

orientation, sex, etc. Sometimes discrimination seems to have its
place, for example, when a certain job requires a specific degree
for employment. However, ever more increasingly the public is
made aware of sexual discrimination in the workplace. An even
hotter topic is the discrimination against workers on the basis of
sexual orientation and sexual preference. In many cases, since
explicit laws do not govern bias against people on the basis of
sexual orientation, many people who feel they have been a victim
rely on the amendment to the constitution governing sexual
discrimination. This is such a case. It is important to examine the
issues, facts, stakeholders, to determine what, if any, alternative
actions Eastern Airlines could have taken to prevent the lawsuit
that occurred.
First off, the issues must be clearly defined. The main moral issue
is whether an employer should be able to discriminate against its
employees upon the basis of sexual identity or orientation.
Another issue is whether the law against sex discrimination
applies to transsexuals. Other issues include the mental
stableness of Ulane and whether she was still able to perform her
job adequately following her sex change operation.
The facts of the case are as follows.
Kenneth Ulane was born a genetic man.
Kenneth had been a distinguished officer in the Army.
He joined Eastern airlines in 1968.
Following years of psychiatric consultation, Ulane decided to
undergo a sex-change operation in 1980.

After the operation, Karen (her new name) was not reinstated as
a pilot by Eastern. At that time there were only 2 female pilots at
Ulane believed that she had been discriminated upon the basis of
her being female. She brought lawsuit to them on the basis of
sexual discrimination.
Judge John Grady presided over the case.
Grady determined that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did
include protection for people who have sexual identity issues,
namely transsexuals. He then had to determine whether Karen
had been discriminated against based on her sex as a woman.
Eastern had had no complaints about Ulane prior to the operation.
Eastern presented seven arguments in a brief defending their
actions in firing her. They were: her underlying psychological
problem presented a safety hazard to crew and passengers,
her medical certification was conditional after surgery,
her sex reassignment surgery did not solve her underlying
her presence would counter the airlines claim that airline traffic is
safe to the public,
she was not the same person they hired and they would not have
hired her in the first place if they had known what they do now,
she had not disclosed her condition and treatments to the
and finally, she had instigated negative publicity for the airline.
Each of the arguments was proven to have no factual base by
Ulanes lawyers. They used examples of alcoholic pilots who did
not disclose their conditions at hiring and when their conditions
were discovered and treated were allowed to return to work.

They proved substantially from the testimony of fellow pilots,

doctors, and the FAA that Ulane was no more dangerous or unfit
to fly than someone who is left-handed.
They used the example of female employees who had posed for
Playboy magazine to disprove that Ulane had brought enough
negative publicity to fire her. The Judge determined that if she
had not been a transsexual she would not have been fired and
ordered that she be reinstated with back wages seniority.
Interestingly the ruling was later overturned by a federal appeals
court panel of three judges who decided that transsexuals and
people with sexual identity disorders were not protected under
the Civil Rights Act.
The stakeholders in this case were numerous and broad-reaching.
Eastern airlines, Karen Ulane, the aviation industry, and almost all
businesses held some stake in this case. The ruling could affect
any employer who chose to discriminate against people based on
sexual orientation.
Three alternative actions could have been taken by the Circuit
Court of Appeals, Eastern airlines or Karen Ulane.
Karen could have accepted another position offered to her by the
company after her operation. Although this would have avoided
the suit altogether, it seems that the moral question of whether to
protect these type of people against undue discrimination would
never have come to public light. Her silence would have also been
to Ulanes disadvantage both monetarily and mentally. This
doesnt seem to be a viable alternative in this case.
A second alternative would have been for the Circuit Court of
Appeals to support the decision of Judge Grady. This would have
been a great victory for Human Rights activists and would have
upheld the guilt of Eastern in this case. While this seems to be a
good alternative there is a better one.

Eastern could have allowed Karen to have returned to work as a

pilot pending a psychiatric evaluation with no further actions.
Eastern clearly had no reason to dismiss Karen other than her sex
change operation. As stated earlier, she was an excellent pilot
according to co-workers and her record. They had received no
complaints about her before the operation. As well as no
complaints no significant safety incidents had occurred. The
company would have saved face if it had given her job back with
the seniority she left with. She obviously could complete the job
with no complications and was an as good or better pilot than
most. Although the final decision was that the law did not protect
her rights, discrimination against a person for any reason than
their qualifications or ability to do the job is morally wrong. Since
even homosexuals are protected under the law now, it seems that
Eastern could have led the way for Human Rights and received
positive publicity. Ulane could have returned to her position with
new found confidence in her identity and worth as a person