ATC Applicants Get New Day In Court In FAA Discrimination Suit


A district court has restored the demand for the full reinstatement of ATC applicants who claimed they were denied employment because of discriminatory hiring practices by the FAA. The group of would-be applicants filed a class-action suit in 2015 after their job applications were thrown out by the FAA, according to the group’s lawyers.

The restoration of a demand is not a final ruling. It does, however, mean that reinstatement is back on the table for affected parties if the court does rule against the FAA. The lead plaintiff in the suit is Andrew Brigida, a graduate of Arizona State University’s FAA-approved Collegiate Training Initiative (CTI) programs.It was filed by Michael Pearson of Curry, Pearson & Wooten PLC and co-counsel Mountain States Legal Foundation.

As we reported in 2016, the allegations of discrimination stem from the FAA’s change in ATC hiring practices in 2013. Before that time, preference was given to CTI graduates, veterans and those with high rankings on the Air Traffic Selection and Training exam (AT-SAT). The AT-SAT was revised in 2013, a separate personality-based Biographical Assessment—that many said was nonsensical—was added as a requirement and preferential hiring for CTI grads was removed. According to the FAA, the purpose of the assessment was, in part, to increase diversity in its workforce.

The FAA eventually reinstated preference for CTI graduates and veterans and withdrew the assessment requirement for those groups after complaints from Congress. Applicants who were passed over were urged to reapply in a general statement but were not automatically reconsidered. According to the Mountain States Legal Foundation, Brigida, who had scored 100 percent on the AT-SAT and applied for an ATC job in late 2013, and between 1,500 and 3,500 similarly qualified ATC applicants were told by the FAA in early 2014 that due to the new hiring procedures, their applications and AT-SAT scores were invalid and would need to be redone.