A veteran American Airlines employee who was fired for posting a series of racist Facebook posts that provoked a public backlash against the airline has lost an appeal against her ex-employer for alleged disability and gender discrimination.
Colleen Koslosky, a long-serving customer services agent for American Airlines at Philadephia Airport, brought the case against the airline in 2018 shortly after she was sacked but District Court judge Joshua D. Wolson “didn’t buy it” and dismissed the case.
Koslosky appealed that decision, but on Tuesday, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals said it agreed with the original ruling and ordered Koslosky to pay costs.
The case dates back to 2016 when Koslosky made a request only to work out of Philadpehia’s Terminal B to avoid excessive walking because she suffered from edema and nerve damage in her leg.
Human Resources denied the request but instead offered accommodation by promising only to assign roles that wouldn’t require much walking.
Nearly a year later, Koslosky again asked that she be only assigned shifts in Terminal B, but Human Resources again rejected her request citing the need for operational flexibility. Undeterred, Koslosky wrote to AA’s most senior manager at the airport and was granted the accommodation she had wanted all along.
A month or so later, several Facebook posts from Koslosky suddenly went viral for all the wrong reasons. One post which stoked controversy read:
“If I were Black in America, I think I’d get down on my knees every day and thank my lucky stars that my ancestors were brought over here as slaves, because when you look at the amazing rights, privileges, and benefits that come along with U.S. citizenship, and then compare that to the relentless poverty, violence, and suffering in Africa, it’s like winning the Super Lotto, a hundred times over. But I guess I’m old- fashioned that way, believing as I do in the importance of gratitude, humility, and respect.”
Another featured a slogan emblazoned t-shirt that read: “Have you lost your cotton pickin’ mind?”
Amercian Airlines customers were furious and so too were the airline’s own employees who complained to the carrier and even called AA’s internal ethics hotline to make their feelings known.
Other employees wrote to the AA’s chief executive and the airport manager told the original trial that the debacle was becoming a “huge public relations incident for the company”.
Koslosky was quickly suspended and then terminated for violating the airline’s social media policy. But Koslosky sued AA alleging disability and gender discrimination. She also pursued complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission.
Central to Koslosky’s lawsuit was that AA used her social media posts as a pretext to sack her because she was disabled.
The Court of Appeal dismissed that claim, saying she had provided no evidence of pretext. “We are thus left with one conclusion: American fired her because her racially insensitive social media posts violated its policies and generated an outcry from employees and customers alike.”
“Because this is a legitimate justification for her ouster, we are not persuaded that the company violated any law here,” the judgement continued.
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.