TODAY   |  April 13, 2013

Airline forces two first class passengers to change clothes

A federal discrimination lawsuit has been filed against U.S. Airways for allegedly refusing to allow two young black men to sit in first class unless they changed clothes. NBC’s Leanne Gregg reports.

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>>> a federal discrimination lawsuit has been filed against us airways for allegedly refusing to allow two young black men to sit in first class unless they changed their clothes. the men claim they were shocked, confused and humiliated by what happened. as leanne gregg reports, the airline says it was following policy.

>> reporter: they were headed home from denver for los angeles after attending a relative's funeral last august. they say when they got to their gate, a us airways employee denied them access to their first-class seats unless they removed their baseball caps , put on a button up shirt and nicer shoes and changed from jeans into slacks.

>> i never experienced discrimination like that before.

>> reporter: they returned to the gate in different attire. when they finally took their seats in first class, they say they were shocked to see two young men, one caucasian and other philippifilipino wearing jeans and the other a hooted sweatshirt wearing anything but business casual they were told was required.

>> it's racial discrimination .

>> reporter: in lawsuit filed this week in federal court , the warrens are seeking punitive damages but both men say it's not money they are after. in a written statement us airways said "we welcome customers of all ethnicities and backgrounds and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. the warrens got their tickets at a reduced rate. because of that, the airline said, they had to follow "company policies" that set clothing requirements and prohibited such items as baseball caps , t-shirts and beach footwear but no policy was mentioned until the warrens received their boarding passes and were at the gate. policy, discrimination or both, it's now up to the courts to decide. leanne gregg, nbc news, los angeles .