A former Delta Air Lines flight attendant has lost a court appeal in a retaliation lawsuit she brought against the Atlanta-based carrier after she was sacked within two months of reporting an incident in which a passenger allegedly called her racial slurs.
Clara Leroy brought the case under the New York Human Rights Law claiming her supervisors at the airline subjected her to a barrage of retaliation including being required to undergo drug testing and being wrongfully suspended.
The veteran flight attendant who began working at Delta in October 2000 claims that a disgruntled passenger called her a “black b**ch” before the plane had even left the gate during the May 18, 2017 incident.
The complaint alleged that when she reported the incident to the Captain, he demanded that both she and the passenger step off the plane and into the jetbridge together. She refused the request citing FAA rules for minimum crew levels with passengers onboard.
But the Captain reportedly took Leroy’s refusal as a sign she was disrespecting him and contacted Delta’s operations control room to have her removed from the flight.
A couple of days later, Leroy completed an internal report on what is known as the Flight Attendant Comment Tracking System (FACTS) at the request of her supervisor. The FACTS report contained factual details about the incident which were absent from Leroy’s lawsuit.
For example, it turns out that the passenger first made a complaint to the Captain and that she had also spoken to Delta’s operation control center several times during the ground delay in which she said she was “very OK” and that the incident had been resolved.
The next month, Leroy was pulled from a flight for a random drug test. She didn’t produce enough urine for the first test so was then required to undergo a second test.
She successfully completed the second test, but after being questioned about possible drug use, Leroy ended up being suspended on suspicion of refusing to appear for a required drug test. She was fired the following month.
Leroy claimed Delta had engaged in unlawful discriminatory practice against her, but the airline successfully argued that her lawsuit provided an account that differed from Leroy’s original FACT report. In any case, Delta’s lawyers argued that Leroy had failed to prove that the airline had discriminated against her.
In January 2021, the district court granted Delta’s motion to dismiss the case and following the recent conclusion of an appeal the dismissal has been upheld in a 2 to 3 majority decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Taking into consideration the details provided in the FACTS report, two of the judges said it would “not be objectively reasonable to believe that Delta’s conduct amounted to a discriminatory employment practice.”
Delta Air Lines 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.