Russian women win partial victory in Aeroflot gender discrimination case

Court in Moscow awards two flight attendants lost wages after finding that national carrier’s rules regarding employees’ ‘physical dimensions’ are at fault

Two Russian flight attendants have won a partial victory in their legal fight against Russian national carrier Aeroflot, which they accuse of gender discrimination.

A court in Moscow found that Aeroflot’s rules regarding the “physical dimensions” of its employees were at fault and ordered the company to compensate Evgenia Magurina, 42, and Irina Ierusalimskaya, 45, for the earnings they had lost after being taken off the airline’s more lucrative long-haul flights because they were a size 48 (a UK size 14) or larger.

While the court in Moscow did not uphold all the two women’s complaints on Wednesday, the ruling is a landmark decision against a large, state-controlled company and has highlighted how women in modern Russia are often judged on their appearance.

Magurina will receive 17,000 roubles (£227) and Ierusalimskaya 11,000 roubles for lost wages, while both women were allocated 5,000 roubles in damages.

The outcome was “definitely a victory,” Magurina’s lawyer, Ksenia Michaylichenko, said after the hearing, the Associated Press reported. “We were not suing for money. We wanted the court to acknowledge that you cannot treat people like that.”

But the compensation was significantly less than the half a million roubles that Magurina had sought in a legal battle she began earlier this year. She had also wanted Aeroflot to admit it discriminated on grounds of gender.

Aeroflot denied on Wednesday that the court had found the company guilty of discrimination.

“We are satisfied with the ruling, which clearly recognises that Aeroflot does not operate discriminatory policies or breach the rights of staff based on age, sex, race or other grounds,” the airline said in a statement. “We will study today’s ruling in detail before deciding whether any changes to our policies are needed.”

The two women had earlier vowed to take their case to the European court of human rights if they did not receive justice in Russia. Magurina and Ierusalimskaya both had their cases thrown out by local Russian courts in April.

Aeroflot was accused of running a campaign to make staff – whose uniforms include red skirts and jackets embroidered with a hammer and sickle logo – younger and more attractive. Magurina and Ierusalimskaya alleged that the Russian carrier photographed and measured all flight attendants, and took those women who were deemed too large off the better paid and more prestigious international routes.

The group of flight attendants jokingly call themselves STS, an abbreviation of the Russian for “Old, Fat and Ugly”. They said they were just a few of hundreds of Aeroflot employees who had suffered discrimination.


Howard Amos in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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