A Black former employee of an aviation company who alleges he was fired on a false sexual harassment allegation used as a pretext to cover up the firm’s racial motives has agreed to have his claims heard in binding arbitration rather than by a jury.
Walter Littles’ Los Angeles Superior Court suit against OSM Aviation Inc. was filed Sept. 17 and alleged race-based discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, failure to prevent discrimination, hostile work environment, harassment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Littles sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
However, attorneys in the case filed court papers on Jan. 19 with Judge Susan Bryant-Deason stating that they had agreed to arbitrate the case.
The suit said the company “had a pattern of behavior of terminating African-American employees.”
OSM Aviation has offices around the world, including one in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The suit says the Los Angeles Superior Court has jurisdiction because Littles worked in Los Angeles County and the company does business in California.
Littles was hired by the company in February 2014 and worked for four years there without any problems, the suit stated. He had a mutual friendship with Charlene Nava, a co-worker and co-defendant in the suit, and at times went to dinner with her, according to the suit.
OSM Aviation promoted Littles to the job of ground instructor and passed over Nava for the same position, the suit states, prompting Nava to allegedly ask other employees, “Why did Littles get that promotion? I’ve been here longer than he has.”
Nava was having a relationship with a married pilot and it was common knowledge that she was dealing with matters related to that relationship at the time, the suit stated.
Littles angered Nava when he told others she had been late at times, the suit states. Littles also heard Nava say during an outing with other employees that she did not date Asian men because of their small private parts, according to the suit.
Nava later reported to OSM Aviation management that during this outing, Littles used a profanity when saying he had had sex with Asian women, the suit stated.
“No one else at the table corroborated this version of Nava’s story,” the suit stated.
OSM Aviation fired Littles without investigating the allegation or talking to others present during the outing, the suit alleged.
Littles offered to explain the context around the conversation and supply names of others who would corroborate that he did not use profanity, but OSM terminated him anyway, the suit stated.
Littles has suffered damage to his reputation and credibility because of his firing and the allegation against him, the suit states.
In subsequent weeks, six Black employees were fired, including two who were present at the time Nava alleged the plaintiff used profanity, the suit stated. One of the two lost his job after Nava made an allegation against him and the second was fired because she had warned a co-worker to limit her alcohol drinking at a bar, the suit alleged.