Ji-Won Kim, Lilian Park, Jean Yi and Jongjin An told KIRO-TV on Tuesday that they all speak fluent Korean and believed it helped them score a job with Delta Air Lines, which flies daily between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and South Korea. All four women said they worked at the customer service desk and at flight gates.
The four told KIRO-TV that they were all fired in May 2017. The lawsuit obtained by KIRO-TV and filed in King County Superior Court alleged that while they were assigned to flights to and from Korea with passengers who spoke Korean, “they were singled out and admonished for speaking Korean.”
A Delta Air Lines plane lands at Los Angeles International Airport on July 12 in Los Angeles, California. Four former Delta Air Lines employees claim they were fired for speaking Korean.
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Yi told the news station that Korean customers felt more comfortable knowing they had someone who understood them and their language.
“[They] were so glad to see me. They say, ‘Oh I feel so comfortable.’ You know, they don’t speak English,” Yi told KIRO-TV.
The lawsuit also claimed the women were fired for handing out “unauthorized upgrades” to passengers, according to KIRO-TV. Kim told the news station that this is a common practice for most employees to offer, especially when a flight has been overbooked, yet they were the ones who were fired.
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“Offering free upgrades, especially on an oversold flight, is a common practice,” Kim said, “But suddenly, it became a reason to be terminated, just for us, for Korean women.”
Kim, Yi, Park and An also claim they were sexually harassed when they worked at the airline by a Delta employee, they told KIRO-TV.
“I tried to avoid touching,” Yi told KIRO-TV. “So when he came to the gate, I just moved out of sight. I didn’t want to deal with him touching, whispering.”
In a statement to Newsweek, Delta Air Lines said they do not tolerate any kind of harassment or discrimination in the workplace and are taking the allegations very seriously. The airline also stated the four employees were “appropriately terminated” for violating “ticketing and fare rules.”
“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,” the airline wrote in a statement to Newsweek. “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.”
Four other Delta Air Lines employees filed a lawsuit in January accusing the airline of discriminating against Jewish people. The four flight attendants, who are all veterans, told TMZ Delta allegedly created a “hostile” and “intimidating environment” during a flight from New York City to Israel. They claimed the airline engaged in “a pattern of intentionally discriminating and retaliating against ethnically Jewish, Hebrew and/or Israeli employees and passengers,” according to TMZ.