How do I make it stop?

I am a 40+ yrs. old African-American male flight attendant for a domestic airline. I have been employed for several years. Throughout the duration of my employment as a flight attendant, I have repeatedly been subjected to verbal and physical harassment, ridicule, slander, and am forced to endure a hostile work environment. Although I have brought these issues to middle and senior management, not only has the harassment increased but I have been warned about my complaints and brought in to several meetings. In not one case has the individual(s) who harassed or physically assaulted me been brought in to meet with management. Furthermore, because I brought these problems to the attention of the company CEO, I am now forced in to a meeting to attest to my memory. I am a member of Transport Workers Union. However, there are NO African-American shop stewards. Therefore, while I was subjected to verbal taunts by three Caucasian flight attendants who spoke openly about their disdain towards African-American students being bused to their areas during company annual training, it came as little surprise that my Caucasian union representative introduced himself by stating that he was tired of hearing blacks complain about being discriminated against. On September 19th 2009, I was repeatedly kicked in my calves while taking my drink orders onboard a flight from Seattle to Oakland. The Caucasian female flight attendant who perpetrated this assault stated beforehand that she, "wanted to be mean to me" to the third flight attendant. I ignored her actions, continued to perform my job duties and sent a comment (using the ideas and inquiries forum) that we, as flight attendants, should perform our job duties in a mature manner. I did not directly mention the employees name nor did I explain this incident. As a result of my comment, I received a response from senior management. I explained what had occurred onboard the flight and how I did not wish to be physically assaulted by other employees and that my only desire is to enjoy a non-hostile work environment. (I had suffered several other assaults and various forms of harassment prior to this incident and I felt that I should voice my concerns about these issues). I spoke very briefly to a senior manager from hdqrs. who stated that she would contact me again in two days so that I could explain further about the incident. She, the Employee Specialist from hdqrs. never called me back. However, she submitted an email which was inaccurate which I was expected to sign. I did not sign it but in turn responded with detailed information about my being physically assaulted by the Caucasian female flight attendant and why I felt that I should bring the matter to their attention. To the best of my knowledge, said flight attendant was never questioned about the incident and transferred immediately afterwards to the Las Vegas flight attendant base. I, on the other hand, because of my complaint and the fact that i stated that I was not allowed to speak in detail about the situation must attend a disciplinary meeting where my memory has been questioned. I have a not-so-pleasant history with the base manager with whom I am meeting. Furthermore, I believe that his actions are in retaliation to my repeated complaints against being harassed and assaulted. It appears as though management is intent upon terminating my employment because of my status as the airline, 'pariah'. I frequently must defend myself against allegations involving another flight attendant. Her allegations were proven false. However, I am very often reminded of the incident and the allegations. I have been called a militant because I speak out against racial jokes, racist slurs, and other defaming comments made openly against blacks and people of color. I am not a militant. I just do not like being forced to listen to these comments. A Caucasian male flight attendant admitted that he had spread the latter rumor to a Caucasian female flight attendant just moments prior to my working with her. He was a ten year employee at the time of this incident. I brought this incident to the attention of senior management along with a copy of his letter of admission. Nothing was done. I was reminded that I must learn to 'get along' with other flight attendants. I was threatened with termination if I continued to complain. I have had my head rubbed for 'good luck' prior to take-off (from Oakland Airport)on a particular flight. I have been forced to wait in the aft-galley of the aircraft until Caucasian flight attendants were absent before I could proceed forth and begin my drink service. I was yelled at and cursed out by a Caucasian female flight attendant while landing in Baltimore Airport. Her actions were witnessed and condemned by Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin and his associates who were travelling onboard that particular flight. Although Mr. Langevin wrote a letter to senior management stating that what she had done was horrendous and unprofessional. Furthermore, he stated that I remained quiet and planned for the landing. As a result of this letter, I was brought in to a meeting and told that I was lucky that I was not being fired. I was blamed for not 'getting along' with this flight attendant even though she controlled the entire incident. I panicked and sold my company stock to pay for my apartment months in advance. I was certain that I would eventually be fired. The female employee was NEVER disciplined for her actions. Her manager stated that he was not going to do anything about it and that I was to blame. I apologized and pleaded that I not be fired. I narrowly escaped being suspended but was informed that I had better not be involved in another altercation. It was at this point that I began to give away most of my trips so that I would lessen the frequent abuse which I was encountering. I would work just enough trips to afford to pay my monthly rent. I would choose to eat on Sunday, Wednesday, and sometimes Friday. I only want to stop this harassment and abuse. I am only asking to be treated fairly. I cannot turn to my union because the union is composed of these same flight attendants and their peers. Furthermore, I have been told by the union that they will not involve themselves in matters concerning racial discrimination and harassment. Therefore, I have sought the assistance of agencies such as the E.E.O.C. and the N.A.A.C.P. While so much more has occurred, the gist of my complaint is that I am being harassed because as a 43 year old African-American, I do not fit the 'mold' of an airline flight attendant. I have received several letters-of-accomodations, 9 within the last four months, from passengers who mention that I perform my duties above and beyond what is asked. even the company CEO (G.K.) has sent me letters of accomodations. Please help me if you are able to do so and thank you kindly for your time and assistance.


4 answers  |  asked Jan 16, 2010 3:09 PM [EST]  |  applies to Illinois

Answers (4)

Orion Callison
Your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for reporting acts of discrimination, either to your employer or to the EEOC. Your employer is also not allowed to discourage you from making such reports.

The first thing you should do is look at your employee policy manual and see who is designated as the person or department to whom you should report discriminatory conduct. Then you should report any instances of discrimination to that designated person or department in writing and keep a copy of your complaint and any written response you are given by your employer to it.

It is a better practice to report the conduct to the person designated by your employer in its policy manual to handle and respond to the charge, rather than, for example, e-mailing the president of the entire company.

If you feel you have been discriminated against, when you make your report be sure to say so. Don't just say that a particular employee mistreated you if you feel the mistreatment was caused by discrimination. Be clear that you are reporting what you believe was a discriminatory or retaliatory act.

If you are a member of a union, you should report any acts of discrimination to your union representative and consider filing a grievance. Your union representative should be able to advise you of the procedures.

If you have filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or your state administrative agency that handles workplace discrimination, be sure to supplement your filing with that agency to advise them of any new acts of discrimination or retaliation that have occurred after the initial charge. If you have not yet filed a charge with the EEOC or your state agency, then you need to do so promptly before your claims become time barred.

You should also consider keeping a private journal (private means something you keep at your home and prepare there) where you write down everying that happens related to discrimination or retaliation (that is, who said and did what, when, where, and who was present to see or hear it), so that you do not forget relevant details over time. This document may be discoverable in later litigation (meaning your employer may eventually request to see it), so be sure to stick to the facts and try not to editorialize or rant. Be as detailed as possible.

And of course, you should strongly consider retaining an attorney of your choosing to assist you with this matter.

posted by Orion Callison  |  Jan 30, 2010 10:01 AM [EST]
Alejandro Caffarelli
Dear "Joe":

If you are interested in speaking with an attorney, please do not hesitate to contact me directly to arrange a date and time for an over the phone screening.

If you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule a screening, I may be reached at (312) 540-1230

posted by Alejandro Caffarelli  |  Jan 19, 2010 10:54 AM [EST]
Kristen Prinz
It sounds like you have filed a Charge with the EEOC. Depending on the timing of the events, there are other local agencies you may want to file with as well such as the Illinois Department of Human Rights and the Cook County Human Rights Commission. As Mr. Otto posted, you have a very short time period in which to file so, if you have not done so and are within the time limitation, do so immediately to preserve your rights.
My office routinely represents employees who have been subjected to discrimination and I would be happy to schedule a consultation. Regardless, I suggest that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible.

posted by Kristen Prinz  |  Jan 18, 2010 08:41 AM [EST]
John Otto
It's unclear to me whether you have filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC and the Illinois Department of Human Rights. If not, you need to do so immediately because the EEOC can only consider incidents that occurred up to 300 days before your filing and the IDHR only incidents up to 180 days before your filing. I would suggest you contact a lawyer in the Chicago area who is familiar with discrimination law.

Good luck.

posted by John Otto  |  Jan 16, 2010 4:36 PM [EST]

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