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When the American Airlines targeted its downtown call center for closure this summer, little did it imagine that this action would be challenged in court on the grounds of gender discrimination. The employees who sued the airlines included thirty employees, mostly women over 40.

The employees have also accused the American Airlines of offering inferior severance and only half-hearted assistance in getting other positions with the company. The complainants are seeking a class-action status and the case has been filed in suburban Dallas-based airline in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.

The shutting the downtown call center by American Airlines came at a time when the airlines have slashed similar facilities nationwide. After the disaster of 9/11, there were speculations in the industry that whether American or Delta, which operates its own facility downtown facility on Plum Street, might pull out. Although the speculation has been going on for years now, American Airlines has managed to employ just more than half the 850 it did in 2001. Delta cut the local jobs back to about 600 and closed similar centers in Boston and Los Angeles.

When the American Airlines closed its downtown center, its roughly 450 employees were offered the option of transferring to another call center elsewhere in the country or doing their job from home. But Eric Deters, who is the lawyer of the employees, claims those options have been rigged to discourage most employees from selecting them.

According to a report in Enquirer, Deters said, “It's an option being offered knowing it's not an option. It is believed (the) defendants intentionally crafted this proposal as a deceitful disguise to eliminate plaintiffs and the class from employment and replace them with younger and less costly alternatives.”

The clauses stated that home-based employees would have to take pay cuts and reduced benefits and also required to travel to Dallas in person at their own expense if their equipment failed until the problem was solved.

Officials with American Airlines said the lawsuit is without merit. The company said that the move to close the call center was a business decision and it had offered employees their choice of severance.

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