The Association of Collegiate Training Institutions (ACTI) is pleased to announce that a judge has granted a motion allowing the CTI discrimination lawsuit to proceed. The lawsuit challenges the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision to purge over 2,600 well qualified air traffic control Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) graduates from a hiring list for diversity reasons.
After an unsuccessful attempt to obtain class certification, a Motion to Amend the Complaint was filed in April. The government opposed this, and attempted to get rid of any potential for a class action. On October 12th, Judge Dabney Friedrich of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the motion to amend and has rejected many of the FAA’s arguments.
The Court has now ruled in favor of the Plaintiff. This means the lawsuit will continue to proceed, including the allegations of discrimination from the FAA’s purge of the CTI list in 2014 as well as the use of the biographical test the FAA used to select individuals. The Court found that the Plaintiff “has alleged sufficient facts to satisfy the intentional discrimination element of his hiring preference claim. …Together, these concrete, plausible allegations suggest that there is “something ‘fishy’ about the facts of the case at hand that raises an inference of discrimination.”
The next step is to file another amended complaint addressing specific items on which the judge has agreed with the FAA. The judge is also requiring additional briefing concerning whether individuals who had just taken the AT-SAT are “applicants” within the meaning of the Civil Rights Act. The Court has also paved the way for pre-certification discovery – which would allow the ability to obtain documents from the FAA to be used against it in the process of getting class certification. In doing so, the Court rejected many arguments advanced by the agency in its attempt to stop the class from being certified.
We anticipate that it will continue to be a long road for this lawsuit, but this is a major step forward to making CTI students who have not been hired by the FAA despite applying under the new process “whole.”
ACTI continues to advocate for students and graduates of CTI programs in Congress and the judicial system. ACTI has worked with Congress to pass changes to the air traffic control hiring law, including prohibiting the FAA from using the biographical assessment to hire CTI students. Earlier this year, ACTI worked with Congress to grant guaranteed preference to CTI graduates. CTI programs contain students of diverse backgrounds and experiences, and attempts to engage in a social science diversity experiment will continue to be challenged.
The lawsuit, Brigida v. Chao, 16-2227, is filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and is not yet a class action. Class action status, as well as who will be a member of any potential future class, is to be determined. Michael W. Pearson, of Curry, Pearson & Wooten, PLC located in Phoenix, Arizona and co-counsel Mountain States Legal Foundation of Denver, Colorado represent Plaintiffs.