Atwater

Atwater flight school settles discrimination complaint

Students stand outside a Robinson R22 helicopter at Castle Air Force Base in Atwater.
Students stand outside a Robinson R22 helicopter at Castle Air Force Base in Atwater. Sun-Star file

An Atwater-based flight school will pay $60,000 to settle a pregnancy-discrimination charge filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced Wednesday.

Sierra Academy of Aeronautics, a school at Castle Airport, agreed to a seven-year conciliation agreement with the commission and a former employee, who alleged she was fired from her mechanic position by the company president after she notified him she was pregnant and had a medical condition.

The former employee’s identity could not be confirmed Wednesday.

The woman filed a discrimination complaint in 2013 with the commission, according to a news release, which found reasonable cause to believe the flight school violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Aside from the cash settlement and her reinstatement, the academy agreed to hire a full-time human resources manager to oversee all equal employment opportunity processes; review and revise the company’s anti-discrimination policies and procedures; and provide training for all employees on laws enforced by the commission.

Sierra Academy’s settlement does not require the firm to admit any guilt. The alleged incident happened under different management, according to Bob Deklinski, a spokesman for Sierra Academy. It’s unclear whether the former manager’s departure was connected to the discrimination complaint.

“Even though we do not admit any liability, we want to make sure any such matters are addressed properly and, if there’s any issues, that they’re corrected immediately,” he said. “We do not tolerate or encourage any kind of discrimination.”

He said the firm has offered to re-hire the woman.

Aside from the cash settlement and her reinstatement, according to the commission, the academy agreed to hire a full-time human resources manager to oversee all equal employment opportunity processes; review and revise the company’s anti-discrimination policies and procedures; and provide training for all employees on laws enforced by the commission.

The agreement further requires that the company maintain a record-keeping system to track and monitor complaints. The commission will monitor compliance with the agreement, the release stated.

“We are encouraged that Sierra Academy of Aeronautics is taking these important steps to prevent workplace discrimination from occurring,” said Melissa Barrios, director of the commission’s Fresno office. “Compliance with federal civil rights laws is mandatory and employers must be committed to both prevent and address such issues.”

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