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Flight Attendants Cry Foul Against Delta

November 7, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Delta Air Lines is encountering turbulence from flight attendants who say alleged job-interview questions about birth control, sexual orientation and other personal matters just won’t fly.

″They Love to Pry,″ howls the front-page headline in Thursday’s New York Newsday, which broke the story about the ″We Love to Fly″ airline.

Neil Monroe, a Delta spokesman, said the allegations are erroneous.

Delta, headquarted in Atlanta, has hired about 2,000 former Pan Am flight attendants since buying most of Pan Am’s operations, which was officially completed last week. Pan Am, headquartered in New York, is relocating to Miami, where it intends to be a small carrier serving Latin America.

Some Pan Am employees Delta hired, and some who weren’t, have told the Independent Union of Flight Attendants that they were asked illegal questions by interviewers or on application forms.

Monroe said Delta does background checks because flight attendants require security clearance, and medical exams because they are responsible for passenger safety.

But he insisted that no personal, or otherwise illegal, questions were asked.

″We didn’t have to hire these people,″ said Monroe. ″They had to undergo the same pre-employment process as any Delta employee would have to go through.″

David Mooney, spokesman for Equifax Inc., a credit-reporting company that does background checks for Delta, said his company was not immediately prepared to comment.

The union is examining job applications and interviews in New York; Los Angeles; Washington, Virginia and Florida.

Union President Brian Moreau said the alleged questions ranged from marital status to whether or not they were on medication for treatment of AIDS or depression.

Moreau could not specify how many complaints have been received. He said the union received 300 calls in recent weeks, but many were from members who had heard rumors and wondered what they legally could be asked in upcoming interviews.

Newsday, however, said dozens of current and former Pan Am employees it interviewed complained of improper questioning.

″They asked me my sexual preference,″ one male flight attendant was quoted as telling Newsday. He was further quoted as saying Delta asked him to show family pictures.

Another flight attendant was quoted by Newsday as saying she was asked what kind of birth control she used.

Moreau said Thursday that one woman allegedly was asked, ″Why aren’t you married?″ and another was told: ″I see here you put on your form that you’re taking birth control pills. And you’re single?″

Moreau said two flight attendants may have been asked about past abortions, and others about past alcohol or drug use.

Moreau conceded that some of the applicants might have been overly sensitive after hearing rumors about complaints and may have misinterpreted questions.

″Questions and discussions about subjects like abortion and birth control were exceptions, rather than the rule,″ said Moreau. ″From a union perspective, the very basic violations aren’t those that make headlines, but the quietly asked questions about industrial injuries, prior arrests″ and the like.

Delta’s Monroe expressed confidence that all questions were legal. But he said, ″I can’t get into a what-if on each, individual allegation. That’s something that would have to be determined if (a question) was found to be improper.″

The union will not take any formal action until it has surveyed all the flight attendants who were interviewed, said Moreau. Technically, those who have been hired by Delta cannot be represented by any union because Delta is not unionized.

New York City’s Human Rights Commission has received ″numerous calls″ from flight attendants, some of them interested in filing complaints, said spokesman Lonnie Soury. They will be interviewed to determine whether an investigation is warranted.

The commission has written a letter to Delta, asking for a discussion of the allegations. ″But we’re not saying anybody’s guilty,″ said Soury.

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