Four Korean-born ex-employees of Delta Airlines have filed a lawsuit which accuses the airline of “singling” them out and admonishing them for speaking Korean.
Lilian Park, Jean Yi, Jong-jin An and Ji-Won Kim worked for Delta for a combined 50 years at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. They believed the fact they could speak Korean was the reason they got hired in the first place.
Delta Airline flies between Sea-Tac and South Korea every day. This means they are a lot of Korean passengers at the customer service desk at the airport — where all four women worked — and not all are fluent in English.
According to Yi, Korean passengers “were so glad to see me. They say, ‘Oh I feel so comfortable.’ You know, they don’t speak English.”
However, the four employees were suddenly told they could no longer work for the airline on May 2017.
The lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court claims the four women were fired precisely because they speak Korean.
“Though assigned to work flights to and from Korea, composed of many Korean-speaking passengers, they were singled out and admonished for speaking Korean,” said the lawsuit.
The lawsuit accused the airline of “race and national origin discrimination and retaliation.”
An also reportedly said her manager warned her of complains from other non-Korean speaking agents.
“They feel uncomfortable, so please limit speaking Korean,” An said the manager told her.
However, the former employees claimed others who spoke their native language did not receive the same warning.
In addition, the women also accused the manager of sexual harassment at work.
“I tried to avoid touching. So when he came to the gate, I just moved out of sight. I didn’t want to deal with him touching, whispering,” Yi recalled.
Park and Kim reported the harassment, which was apparently a daily occurrence, to their supervisors. However, the manager retained his position and continued with his touching, said Jennifer Song, their attorney.
The lawsuit also stated the four employees were suspended and ultimately terminated for allegedly offering unauthorized upgrades.” However, Kim said that is standard practice.
“Offering free upgrades, especially on an oversold flight, is a common practice, but suddenly, it became a reason to be terminated, just for us, for Korean women,” Kim said.
Song also said “Other agents do it, on a daily basis” however, none of them were fired because of this.
Delta has denied the accusations and argued they were fired for “violated ticketing and fare rules.”
“Delta does not tolerate workplace discrimination or harassment of any kind. Such behavior runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion and our mission of connecting the world,” the statement said. “We take allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination very seriously and our investigations into allegations made by these former employees were found to be without merit. These former employees were unfortunately but appropriately terminated because the company determined they violated ticketing and fare rules. Delta is confident that these claims will ultimately be determined to be without merit.”
Park said this is not the kind of treatment she expected from a company that catered to international clients.
“No, not at all. Country of freedom, and this is what I got from the company,” Park said. “This is United States. Everybody should be treated equally.”
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS/Mike Blake