Delta Airlines employees allegedly fired for speaking Korean
Four Korean-born former employees of American carrier Delta Airlines have filed a lawsuit alleging “race and national origin discrimination and retaliation”.
The four women worked as desk and gate agents at Seattle–Tacoma International Airport in the US state of Washington. They were assigned to work flights between Seattle and Korea, and believe that their fluency in the Korean language was a key reason they were hired in the first place.
They were terminated by Delta in May last year.
“[Korean-speaking passengers] were so glad to see me. They say, 'Oh I feel so comfortable.’ You know, they don’t speak English,” said one of the employees, Jean Yi, who is a US citizen.
However, the quartet was reprimanded for speaking Korean.
All four also claim to have been inappropriately touched by a male colleague. Two of the employees, Ji-Won Kim and Lilian Park say they reported the harassment. However, the man remains employed by Delta.
“We also suspect that their termination is related to the reporting of sexual harassment,” said their lawyer, Jennifer Song.
Delta Airlines told local news outlet KIRO 7 that the women were fired for offering unauthorised upgrades.
"These former employees were unfortunately but appropriately terminated because the company determined they violated ticketing and fare rules,” said a company spokesman via e-mail.
"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.
"Delta does not tolerate workplace discrimination or harassment of any kind. Such behaviour runs counter to our core values of diversity and inclusion and our mission of connecting the world,” continued the statement.
However, Kim noted that “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.”