Monday, October 20, 2014

"Flight attendants helped to ground sex discrimination"

The title of this post comes from this fascinating story, which begins:

Dedicated to protecting the safety of others, Lake Barrington's Shari Worrell once performed mouth-to-mouth to save a man's life. Another time, she used a pair of earphones, a small drinking cup and "occupied" stickers meant for the bathroom door to fashion a MacGyver-esque stethoscope needed by a doctor. Throughout her career, she received three awards of merit for her lifesaving efforts.


But before she started her job each day, Worrell had to step on the scale to prove she weighed between 105 and 118 pounds, undergo an inspection to make sure the seams in her stockings were straight and submit to a girdle check.


"It was just the way it was back then," says Worrell, 66, who started as a "stewardess" with United Airlines in 1968. "I didn't think it was the least bit odd. If they told me to stand on my head in the corner, I probably would have done it."


But during her 34-year career as a flight attendant, Worrell and other young women who started as stewardesses helped change the way the airlines and all employers dealt with women in the wake of the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.


"The flight attendants played an astonishing role in the development of Title VII," says professor Mary Rose Strubbe, assistant director of the Institute for Law and the Workplace at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. Strubbe, 66, who started her law career with a Chicago firm representing many of those flight attendants in discrimination cases, will be one of the presenters Thursday at the institute's conference on the role of flight attendants in fighting sex discrimination.

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