- More than 500 Delta Air Lines employees file a class-action lawsuit against uniform manufacturer
- Claim chemicals used in the uniforms have caused severe allergic reactions
- The lawsuit is calling on a full recall from over 64,000 uniformed employees
- Delta insists the uniforms are safe and independent testing confirms this
A group of more than 500 flight attendants, gate agents and lounge workers at Delta Air Lines have filed yet another class-action lawsuit against Lands’ End, the manufactuer of the airline’s Passport Plum colored uniform. The lawsuit and the number of plaintiffs involved will call into question Delta’s insistence that only a small number of its uniformed front-line staff have encountered any adverse effects from the garments which were introduced in May 2018.
Court documents claim the flight attendants and ground staff have suffered severe respiratory distress, skin rashes and blisters, hair loss and blurred vision amongst other symptoms as a result of wearing the Zac Posen-designed uniform. Various chemicals and finishes added to the uniform to bring easy-care benefits like stain resistance are alleged to have caused an allergic and sensitizing effect on the human body.
Chromium, Mercury, Formaldehyde and Bromine have all been found in uniform samples tested on behalf of the plaintiffs – the lawsuit claims chemicals like Formaldehyde (which can cause skin, throat, lung, and eye irritation) was found far in excess of industry-accepted safe levels for garments.
Delta admits that at least 2,000 employees have made some kind of complaint about the new uniform, while just shy of 1,000 have made formal complaints about suffering skin reactions and other adverse effects from the threads. But an internal report from an independent laboratory has cleared the uniform of having any “attributable health risk”.
The tests were carried out by Intertox who sampled 628 of the Zac Posen-designed Delta uniform items. The report from the independent laboratory concluded that some “allergens and irritants” were present in the garments but none were present in a high enough concentration to cause the kinds of adverse skin reactions that have been seen in some employees, especially flight attendants.
“Our top priority continues to be the safety of our employees, which is why we invested in a rigorous toxicology study to determine if there was a universal scientific issue with the uniform,” explained a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines.
“The results of the study confirm our uniforms meet the highest textile standards (OEKO-TEX) with the exception of the optional flight attendant apron, which we removed from the collection,” the statement continued.
Workwear supplier Lands’ End was chosen to manufacturer the uniform for Delta in 2016 and the collection was rolled out to around 64,000 uniformed employees around the world two years later. The apparent initial success of the rollout was one of the reasons why American Airlines also selected Lands’ End to produce its updated uniform which is set to roll out in May.
While Delta insists the uniforms are safe, it does allow flight attendants the option of wear a plain black suit and white blouse or shirt if they’ve filed a formal complaint about suffering a reaction to the official uniform. It’s not known how long Delta will allow staffers to continue this practice or what other measures the airlines has up its sleeves.
Along with claims for damages, the lawsuit is also calling on Lands’ End to carry out a full recall of the uniform. The suit was filed in the Western District of Wisconsin Court on December 31, 2019. A trial date has not yet been set.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.