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LAWSUIT CHALLENGES AMERICAN AIRLINES’ `FIRM AND TRIM’ POLICY

SHARE LAWSUIT CHALLENGES AMERICAN AIRLINES’ `FIRM AND TRIM’ POLICY

American Airlines flight attendants should not have to fit a "coffee, tea or me" image, says a suit challenging the company's weight policy.

The class-action federal lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Monday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission."American still wants their flight attendants to appeal to a male sexist notion of what is sexy," commission lawyer Ralph D.H. Fertig said. "And that's thin."

The lawsuit also alleges the policy discriminates against attendants who take leaves of absence to give birth or work as union officers because they are not given time to bring their weight down after they return.

American's policy reads that a "firm, trim silhouette, free of bulges, rolls or paunches, is necessary for an alert, efficient image."

Patt Gibbs, a flight attendant for 28 years and a plaintiff in the suit, was weighed when she returned to work in 1988 after a four-year leave to serve as president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants Union.

The 5-foot-3 Gibbs was 154 pounds, 29 pounds over the maximum allowed for her height. Gibbs got her weight down and returned to work, but she said the experience was humiliating.

"They said: `That's that. You're too heavy. Lose the weight or you won't have a job,' " she said.

American Airlines' policy is one of the strictest in the airline industry.

According to the lawsuit, women flight attendants are held to a more stringent standard than their male counterparts. Women must maintain their weight at 17.5 percent below the life-table weight, while men must be only 2.5 percent below, Fertig said.

The lawsuit cites age discrimination because women tend to become heavier as they age, yet standards are not relaxed for flight attendants over 40, Fertig said.