Flight attendants win gender discrimination case vs PAL

Fritzie Rodriguez
Flight attendants win gender discrimination case vs PAL
After 11 years, female flight attendants forced to resign earlier than their male counterparts win a case against the Philippine flag carrier

MANILA, Philippines — The long wait is finally over.

In 2004, a group of female flight attendants filed a gender discrimination case against national carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL). After 11 years, the Makati Regional Trial Court finally ruled in their favor. 

The class suit stems from PAL’s policy which “compulsorily retired” stewardesses at age 55, while stewards could retire at 60. The provision is part of PAL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, though no reason was provided for the discrepancy. 

Meanwhile, flight attendants hired after the year 2000 are required to retire at an even younger age of 40. However, in management positions, the retirement age for both women and men is 65.

In May 2015, the court declared PAL’s provision null and void, awarding around 1,000 affected flight attendants P100,000 each.

“When you ride airlines, you want experience, not youth,” said lawyer Lorna Kapunan who represents the PAL workers. She stressed that such policy is unfair since male and female flight attendants undergo the same training.

COUNSEL. Lawyer Lorna Kapunan

Kapunan called the case a “legal pingpong,” stretching for years at the expense of women. The case was tossed from the lower court to the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, and back. At first, PAL wanted the issue to remain a “labor case,” but Kapunan insisted that this was a case of gender-based discrimination. 

“We’re too young to retire, but too old to find work,” the group of female flight attendants said on Thursday, June 11.

Some women began new careers as call center agents; majority, however, stayed at home since no one else would hire them. Although they wished to put up businesses of their own, the women said their retirement pay was too small.

At 55, the women have to wait 5 more years before they get their  Social Security System pensions.

“I’m still active and productive, what do I now?” asked Cynthia Stehmeier, who served PAL for 35 years, starting when she was just 18.

Stehmeieir said she and her colleagues, experienced depression after their “forced resignation.”

In 2010, the Philippine Commission on Women also urged the flag carrier to end its “discriminatory policies.”

Victory for all Filipino women

Kapunan hopes that PAL would follow the court decision and no longer file a motion for reconsideration. She calls the case a “huge victory” for everyone who has been “deprived of employment and robbed of their dignity” as a result of gender-based discrimination.

“All Filipino women will benefit from this case. It is important for us to win this,” said Patricia Halaguena, one of the original petitioners. “It is important for PAL not to delay this case anymore. The longer the case goes, the more injustices can happen.”

“All flight attendants in the Philippines will benefit from this. There will be equality in the workplace,” Halaguena added.

Female PAL flight attendants experienced other forms of gender-based discrimination in the past. In the 1970s, they were discouraged from getting married and getting pregnant.

“Some had to resign because they got pregnant,” said former flight attendant Dolores Panas. She was among the first in PAL to experience paid maternity leaves in the late 1970s.

Rappler tried contacting PAL. It has yet to release an official statement on the development.  Rappler.com

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