A former long-serving Delta Air Lines airport lead coordinator, or Red Coat as they are often known, claims she was terminated by the Atlanta-based airline because of her Muslim faith after a false accusation by a customer wasn’t even investigated by her superiors. Genet Lima of Alexandria, Virginia filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against Delta on Monday under the Civil Rights Act 1964 and requested a trial by jury.
Lema had worked at Washington National Airport for Delta since 2006 but was permanently suspended in March 2019 following an alleged altercation with a customer over a wheelchair. The customer claims Ms Lema struck her during the dispute resulting in her supervisor authorizing the defacto termination without investigating what actually happened.
The lawsuit claims Delta took this harsh approach because Ms Lema had identified herself as a Muslim and that colleagues who had been at the center of other complaints were not sacked by the company.
In contrast, Ms Lema says eyewitnesses would have been able to confirm that she did nothing wrong while dealing with the “disruptive passenger” and that there was even video evidence to back up her version of events.
Ms Lema claims she started to be treated differently when she identified herself as Muslim to a new supervisor. Lema said she would be wearing a hijab during Ramadan and fasting in accordance with Islamic rules, at which point she says her supervisor’s behavior towards her suddenly changed.
At first, this resulted in the supervisor becoming more distant and then refusing to release Ms Lema to attend training courses, including mandatory programs. But it was following an incident with a passenger that sealed Ms Lema’s fate she claims.
The passenger, who had an injured knee, was unhappy that Ms Lema could not guarantee that a cart would be waiting for her on arrival in New York JFK, although at the very least Ms Lema said a wheelchair would be on hand.
The passenger allegedly started filming Ms Lema and other staff despite requests to stop doing so. During boarding, the passenger then threatened to have Ms Lema sacked and held up the boarding process on an already delayed flight by standing in the entrance to the jetway.
Ms Lema says she told the passenger to board the plane and after a short argument, the customer finally got onboard the plane. Only after the entire flight had boarded did she then learn that the passenger had made an allegation to the crew that she had been assaulted by Ms Lema.
Police were called but after initially making an allegation of assault the passenger declined to give a sworn statement and no further action was taken.
Ms Lema says she told her supervisor about what had happened and about the existence of video evidence and eyewitnesses. The supervisor said she would investigate but at 11 pm that same day, Ms Lema was informed by telephone that she would be suspended indefinitely. She says she was never formally notified, never interviewed by the incident and Delta failed to carry out a proper investigation.
In contrast, she claims two non-Muslim Red Coats weren’t disciplined following similar incidents. In one case, just days before Me Lema was suspended, she says a colleague allegedly struck a customer but was not terminated. In another case, a Red Coat said she wanted to fight a passenger but she was not disciplined.
“Delta’s actions have taken a great toll on Ms. Lema,” the lawsuit reads, while saying the airline “discriminated against Ms. Lema by discharging her for pretextual reasons.”
Delta has been contacted for comment.
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.
Doubtful. Delta is a very liberal company. Being white gives you a large disadvantage in this company. She got fired and is playing the minority card.
How there is legit video evidence cooperating her story and witness who said that didn’t happen and the fact that passenger refused to give sworn statement. Did you not read all that or did you just want to give doubt to people’s grievances.
Not true. I know from experience.
It takes an act of God to get fired from Delta, it has an extremely diverse work force and is very inclusive. There are steps after one believes that he or she was terminated unfairly. I am having a very hard time believing this.
It takes an “act of God”, tell that to the hundreds of Delta employees that have been fired by them. Also, they haven’t been “liberal” all that long. Trust me, I worked there for decades. It’s also harder to get fired if you’re of another face rather than caucasian.
No true I know from experience as a former employee
I can totally see this happen. I used to work at the airport (not directly with Delta tho) and have seen some very petty and malicious managers and employees. True, that Delta has a diverse workplace but that is simply to make Delta look like a inclusive and welcoming airline, it doesn’t mean there will be racist managers running the airline behind the scenes.
You are absolutely right
I believe that Delta is now a liberal airline. After all, they never press charges or had the woman who punched the flight attendant in the face back in October 20th on Delta flight 1997 from Miami to Georgia. I work for a private investigative team, and I called them Miami-Dade Police department to ask why charges were not filed since it is a $250,000 fine plus possible imprisonment if you assault a flight attendant. There were many videos online, plus everyone on the plane saw that the woman assaulted the flight attendant and the flight attendant did not provoke it. This was over a mask. This month, a man was taken off a plane and charged and arrested for refusing to put a mask on. The difference between the woman that assaulted the flight attendant and was not charged or arrested is that she was black. The other guy who refused to wear a mask but did not assault the flight attendant was white. So, you get away with anything on Delta if your not white.
Supervisor could just be an asshat. There are jerks at every company
Bullshit! As a Delta employee I’m proud to work for a company that is very diverse and very strong on cultural /religious /racial/sexual orientation respect. I’m a frontline employee, not a manager. I wish all companies were like Delta.
As someone from actual repressive country, it amaze me to see American pander to all these “victim” groups who only want more special treatment.
When you give up power in your homeland, you will be shock that they never give you back the same treatment.
Also, if she were sincerely Muslim, she wouldn’t only wear her hijab during Ramadan. In Islam once a woman (or sadly, sometimes a girl) puts on the hijab, it’s never supposed to be off when in public.
I am not buying the story as written. Delta will not fire you based on religion. You have to steal or assault a fellow worker or customer to get suspended or fired. Investigations by station management, corporate security or both may take place. Past history of conflicts, attendance issues, late to work or other problems in the past came into play. There are cameras everywhere in today’s airports and in the jet ways. This is one side of the story, but what about the passenger’s side of the story. As a former red coat and now retired employee of 40 years in ACS, nobody ever got days off or hours away from work to complete mandatory training except when put in written request through proper channels.