'Singled out' for speaking Korean, claim fired Delta employees
One of these women said that her manager at Delta told her to "limit speaking Korean" because other agents of the airline who could not speak Korean.
At least four former employees of Delta Air Lines have filed a lawsuit against the aviation company, claiming that they were "singled out and admonished" for speaking Korean to passengers going to and coming from Korea. They also claimed that they were fired because they reported sexual harassment, reports state.
The four former employees — Jongjin An, Ji-Won Kim, Lilian Park and Jean Yi — have alleged race and national origin discrimination, and retaliation in a lawsuit, which was filed last month at King County Superior Court in Washington.
All the women, who speak Korean fluently, reportedly worked in the airlines' customer service department as gate agents at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport for flights to and from Korea. The lawsuit states that they were fired in May 2017 and that several passengers on the flights they were assisting spoke Korean.
One of these women, while talking to KIRO 7, said that her manager at Delta told her to "limit speaking Korean" because other agents of the airline who could not speak Korean were uncomfortable. The women, however, have claimed that other employees of the airline who spoke other foreign languages were not given a similar warning as them, according to reports.
Delta released a statement, explaining their actions, stating that the employees were fired because "they violated ticketing and fare rules."
The women, however, acknowledged that they did give passengers free upgrades on oversold flights, but added that it is a common practice for the airlines. “Offering free upgrades, especially on an oversold flight, is a common practice,” Kim told the station. “But suddenly, it became a reason to be terminated, just for us, for Korean women.”
Attorney Jennifer Song said that other agents, however, follow this practice on a "daily basis." The suit filed by them also claims that the women were terminated from their jobs after they reported sexual harassment by the same employee of the company.
The women said that they had reported the employee several times before, but the company did not address the issue, according to KIRO 7. The firm reportedly told them that he would be terminated if another complaint was filed against him, however, that never happened.
One of the women, Yi said: "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. It was a daily thing."
While Delta's statement added that it "does not tolerate workplace discrimination or harassment of any kind. 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."
Reports state that three of the women, who have filed the suit, are US citizens and the fourth one expects to become one soon. They, however, said that this is not what they expected before coming to the United States.
“Country of freedom and this is what I got from the company,” Park said. “This is United States. Everybody should be treated equally.”