In Nicholson v. Hyannis Air Service, Inc., Tiffany Nicholson sued her former employer for gender discrimination after she was suspended from flying due to problems with "communication and cooperation" skills. Nicholson claimed she was the only female out of eight pilots flying the routes in question, and she was not given any training or opportunity to improve her skills even though male-pilots who had failed exams in the past had received training and second chances to pass the exams.
The Ninth Circuit held that deficient communication and cooperation skills were subjective job criteria which could not be used to determine whether an employee was "qualified," and therefore could not bar proof of a prima facie case of gender discrimination. Using objective criteria only, the court believed Nicholson was qualified for the position. The Ninth Circuit held it was an error for the trial court to find that Nicholson was not qualified based on her alleged insufficient communication skills. That error, along with evidence that male pilots may have been treated differently, was sufficient to show discriminatory motive such that that Nicholson's claims should have survived summary judgment.