updated 11/15/2006 4:50:34 PM ET 2006-11-15T21:50:34

Indian air hostesses embroiled in a legal battle with their employer after they were grounded for being out of shape said the move was unconstitutional and have vowed to win back lost wages.

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Eleven women say they have suffered from low self-esteem after being grounded by state-run Indian airline for being between a few hundred grams and 3 kg (6.6 lbs) over the firm’s specified weight limit.

“The company told me that I was above the limit and that I should go home until I had lost the excess weight,” said 48-year-old Sheela Joshi, who was found to be 500 grams (18 ounces) above her allowed 63 kilos.

“I had to go on a serious diet and it took me over 1½  months to lose weight and I wasn’t paid by the company. It was a stressful period, and I lost confidence in myself.”

Lawyers for the company, known as Indian Airlines until last year, say the women are contractually obliged to meet weight guidelines for health reasons.

“This is an issue about fitness not about image. Cabin crew need to be physically fit for their work,” Rupinder Singh Suri, the company’s lawyer, told Reuters.

Around 120 employees were grounded after a statement in May warned staff they would be banned from flying if found to be over a fixed weight based on criteria such as age and height.

The women will take their case to Delhi’s High Court in March, demanding the company pay their salaries for the time they were grounded and withdraw the May circular which they say is a breach of their constitutional rights.

Although weight guidelines have always been in place, employees were previously been allowed to weigh in at up to three kilos above the limit.

The restrictions also apply to the 200 male stewards working for the airline, 20 of whom were among the 120 barred from work. Indian stopped recruiting men for its cabins in 1988.

The women, most in their 40s and who have worked for the company for 20 years, say Indian wants to replace mature crew with skinnier women to survive in a highly competitive industry.

Their lawyer Arvind Kumar Sharma, said while all the grounded air crew have lost weight and are now able to fly, only 11 of the 120 have taken legal action.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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