Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
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 is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.