The ACLU-NJ and the National ACLU have sued Continental Airlines on behalf of Michael Dasrath and Edward Cureg, who were discriminated against when removed from a Newark-to-Tampa flight on December 31, 2001. Dasrath and Cureg, who did not know one another, were both flying to Tampa to be with family for New Year's Eve. While the flight awaited take-off, Cureg, who is from the Philippines, spoke with his mathematics professor, an Indian man who happened to be on the same flight. Dasrath, who is an American citizen originally from South America, sat in his assigned seat one row behind them and did not converse with them. A female passenger walked up the aisle to first class on a few occasions and stared at the three men. She then summoned the pilot and told him that "three brown-skinned men are behaving suspiciously." The pilot failed to ask the woman to elaborate on those behaviors. Instead, he left the cabin area. Thereafter, a flight supervisor came aboard the plane and asked Dasrath, Cureg and Cureg's professor to leave the plane. After their removal, the flight supervisor explained that the pilot said that a passenger was uncomfortable with their presence. Dasrath, Cureg, and Cureg's professor had to wait hours for a later flight, which flew to Orlando as there were no more flights to Tampa. The men were placed on the later flight without any additional security checks. Our complaint against the airline raises claims under both federal and state laws against discrimination. Continental filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Oral argument on that motion was held on October 15, 2002 and the judge ruled in our favor. The judge held that we had presented sufficient evidence to support our allegation that the pilot's action was based on discrimination and that pilots are not exempt from discrimination laws. As such, the case will move forward.


Reggie Shuford, Vince Warren, Amrit Singh/National ACLU


United States District Court for the District of New Jersey