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Federal Judge Restores Key Component of Discrimination Lawsuit Against FAA

May 31, 2018 | by William Perry Pendley

Thousands of Qualified, Prospective Air Traffic Controllers May Now Seek Restoration of Rights Terminated by a Discriminatory
Obama-era Initiative

DENVER, CO.   This morning, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. dealt a huge victory for Andrew Brigida and 3,500 other prospective air traffic controllers (ATCs) who were illegally denied merit-based hiring by the Federal Aviation Administration solely because of their race.  Judge Dabney L. Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia restored the lawsuit’s demand for full reinstatement of qualified ATC applicants who were purged by the FAA’s discriminatory hiring program. 

The lawsuit was triggered by the Obama Administration’s 2013 decision to jettison the FAA’s merit-based hiring program for ATCs in favor of prejudicial testing designed to identify an applicant’s race.  As a result, thousand of qualified applicants—who dedicated years of their lives and incurred substantial debt to obtain the training mandated by the FAA since 1991—were turned away.  “The FAA tried to fix a system that wasn’t broken,” said Mountain States Legal Foundation Attorney Christian Corrigan.  “We are thankful the Court will allow us to pursue the relief that can make our client whole for the injury he suffered.”

Prior to the 2013 purge, the FAA collaborated with universities and colleges to create accredited degree programs in Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) schools.  The FAA gave a hiring preference those who obtained CTI program degrees, references from CTI administrators, and “well qualified” rankings on the challenging Air Traffic Selection and Training exam (AT-SAT)—a validated, proctored, eight-hour, computer-based test.   In December of 2013, the FAA began its new hiring process and told approximately 3,500 trained and qualified graduates of CTI programs—who were on the FAA’s referral list and ready for immediate hire—that their AT-SAT scores were no longer valid and that they must reapply for employment.  The new application process—open to anyone—required applicants to pass a nonsensical “Biographical Questionnaire (BQ),” which was instituted to select minority candidates.  Despite obtaining a perfect score on the AT-SAT exam, lead plaintiff Andrew Brigida was told he failed the BQ and was therefore no longer eligible for employment as an ATC. 

 “The FAA jeopardized passenger’s lives to advance a political agenda,” said William Perry Pendley, president of Mountain States Legal Foundation. 

The lawsuit was filed in December of 2015, charging violation of the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  A federal district court in Arizona sharply limited the remedies available to Mr. Brigida and transferred the case to Washington, D.C.   Due to this new ruling, Mr. Brigida now has a chance to follow his dream and get back what he rightfully earned.   

Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, 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 in suburban Denver, Colorado.

For more information:  Brigida v. U.S. Department of Transportation

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