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Worker Who Didn’t Smile Fired Legally

Associated Press

A federal judge says American Airlines had the right to fire a flight attendant because he did not smile enough at passengers.

U.S. District Judge Robert O. Belew Jr. ruled last week against Robert W. Cox, 38, of Keller, Tex., who sued the airline in 1981 for alleged sex discrimination before his probation as a flight attendant had ended.

Cox, who worked for the airline from November, 1974, to April, 1975, contended in his suit that he was a good employee and met all requirements of the job except for the smile. He sought reinstatement and back wages.

Belew said he was upholding American’s policy of requiring a “friendly facial expression” because it is is essential in the competitive airline industry.

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One of Cox’s supervisors wrote following a flight, “Smiling is an integral part of the job, so concentrate on a friendly facial expression.”

The supervisor also said Cox did not start conversations with passengers. Court papers show that Cox responded that he needed “more discretion on when to smile at male passengers, but that he would strive to smile more.”

Belew said Cox was fired for violating company policy, not because of sex discrimination.

In his ruling, the judge noted that American Airlines has continued to hire and train male flight attendants.

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The ruling returned last Thursday followed a one-day trial on the suit Feb. 25.


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