Nearly two dozen black pilots for United Airlines filed a federal discrimination lawsuit claiming few minority workers are promoted to upper management at the world's largest air carrier.
The lawsuit claims blacks who are in upper management jobs were promoted simply to give the company a false appearance of diversity.
Those managers are often excluded from social gatherings, informal email chains and other forums where company issues are discussed, the legal action states.
United vowed Wednesday to vigorously defend itself against the allegations made by 22 pilots in the lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco.
"United does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind," spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said. "We believe this lawsuit is without merit."
The lawsuit claims that nearly all black employees at United Continental Holdings Inc., United's parent company, are in non-management positions.
The pilots are seeking an end to the alleged discrimination, back pay and other damages.
United and Continental Airlines merged in 2010. Most of the pilots involved in the lawsuit flew with United before the merger.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Donna M. Ryu.