A former Delta Air Lines flight attendant claims she was fired by the airline because she defended herself against an internet troll who called her a “dumb woman” in an unsolicited message sent to her personal but public Facebook profile. Delta, however, says there’s more to the story than what the flight attendant originally told Buzzfeed news, although it’s limited on how much it can say because of privacy protection rules.
Kiersten Bak, 26, only graduated as a Delta flight attendant in March but her career was shortlived after her employment was terminated in October following a near month-long investigation into her behaviour on social media she says.
Bak runs an online clothing store called That Fucking Feminist which is linked to her personal Facebook account. Her profile picture, until recently, was of Bak wearing her Delta flight attendant uniform.
Bak says she often receives derogatory messages from internet trolls who object to her running a business selling feminist merchandise. More often than not, she deletes the messages and simply blocks the user but on August 29, Bak decided to publicly call out one troll who sent a message that said: “You are one dumb woman.”
Typing on her Facebook wall, Bak responded below a screenshot of the original message: “Imagine having the ego of a white man in America 🥺 🥺, no idea who this guy is. just some random snowflake who messaged me and immediately blocked me so I couldn’t respond 😂”.
The person who sent the message saw her response and also noticed she was a Delta flight attendant and then sent a complaint to the airline. Bak was called in a for a meeting and subsequently fired on October 7.
Managers questioned her about a number of Facebook posts and interactions and asked her if she had the same opinion of all white men in America.
“I did everything to not laugh. I was respectful, and I said, ‘Well, my dad is a pretty nice guy. No, of course I do not think this about all white men in America,” she told Buzzfeed News. “But when you get 10 messages a day … only from white men named Chris or Brian or Todd, yes, I’m going to have this opinion about white men in America.’”
Bak has called Delta hypocritical for publicly backing equality movements like Black Lives Matter but then taking the side of a white man over an “employee who did nothing wrong”.
Her termination letter, however, explains that she was terminated for breaking Delta’s social media policy with what the airline described as “insensitive and offensive posts.”
The controversial policy was criticized by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers after it was introduced in 2018 for being too broadly written with the potential “to be misinterpreted to restrict lawful activities”.
In June, a high-profile Delta flight attendant who was often seen at Delta events suddenly left the airline after posting controversial Tweets about the Black Lives Matter movement. Delta did not say why the veteran flight attendant had left the airline, although sources claim she was sacked for breaching the airline’s social media policy.
Delta simply confirmed that the flight attendant was no longer employed by the airline.
In a statement addressing the allegations made by Bak, a spokesperson for Delta said: “While personnel issues are considered private between Delta and its employees, the circumstances described by our former employee are not an accurate or complete explanation of the company’s termination decision.”
“Delta is a values-led company and our employees know and understand that they are representatives of our brand at work and through their conduct in social media and other public forums. When Delta employees intermix Delta’s brand with conduct or content that does not reflect our values of professionalism, inclusion and respect, that conduct can result in discipline or termination.”
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.