A Delta Air Lines flight attendant who was sacked for sharing a controversial political cartoon on Facebook about former President Donald Trump is now suing Delta, claiming racial discrimination.
Delta Flight Attendant Suing For Racial Discrimination After Being Fired For Sharing Trump KKK Political Cartoon
Former Delta flight attendant Leondra Taylor shared the following image on her Facebook page:
In the cartoon, Trump is pictured wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood at a debate with President Joe Biden moderated by Chris Wallace with the caption, “Thank You Mr. President, For Wearing Your Mask.”
As we’ve discussed before, Delta has a strict policy regulating social media use. In 2020, flight attendant Kevin Lee Jennings left the company after posting a series of controversial tweets, including:
“My employer, Atlanta’s hometown airline is in a massive crises because of a virus that has taken the lives of 40 people. How many were killed in Chicago during the same time frame?”
“I see plenty of scrawny black anarchists out there too. And none of them are social distancing or really wearing masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19. I have numerous white friends who live on Lake Street in MSP, BTW, it’s their neighborhood too.”
Jennings was such a high profile flight attendant that her departure prompted a memo from Delta CEO Ed Bastian on proper employee social media use:
“I want to make it clear that Delta’s workplace must remain safe and welcoming for all Delta people. We will not tolerate racist, bigoted or hateful acts or statements in our workspaces or directed at our people…
“This includes racial and other bigoted, hateful and offensive comments on social media by Delta people, which hurts our culture and our people.”
Interestingly, Taylor had been one of the flight attendants who had vocally called out and even assisted Delta in trying to throw another flight attendant over social media use. But then Delta started digging through her own social media accounts.
Her lawsuit, which claims non-black employees were not subjected to termination for similar posts, also denies that the controversial cartoon was disrespectful, hateful, or discriminatory. According to the lawsuit:
“In fact, her post was quite the opposite. It simultaneously made a statement about Trump’s denial of the need for COVID protective measures, and that racial discrimination against African Americans was a systemic issue starting at the top, with the then president.”
All this, while important, is secondary to me. The questions we need to be asking are 1.) whether there was a link between her Facebook account and her employment with Delta and 2.) whether other employees were treated differently than her on the basis of race. Were there pictures of her in uniform or on Delta aircraft in the same Facebook account? Were other employees not punished for posting the same or similar cartoons?
A Delta spokesperson shared:
“When Delta employees intermix Delta’s brand with conduct or content that does not reflect our values of professionalism, inclusion and respect, that conduct can result in discipline or termination.
“While personnel issues are considered private between Delta and its employees, the circumstances described by our former employee are not an accurate or complete explanation of the company’s termination decision.”
My guess is that Taylor will lose her lawsuit unless she can find numerous examples of non-black employees having mixed work with politics in a similar matter who were not punished. She seems to have violated Delta’s social media policy and her statements trying to downplay the incendiary nature of the cartoon will fall upon deaf ears.
But that doesn’t mean I like what happened to her. Spare me the outrage over the cartoon…it makes an incendiary but important point in our political dialogue. It’s the sort of speech that should be protected…and I say the same thing about Jennings’ political speech.
I’m against most efforts to censor or punish political speech that is uncomfortable or controversial. Sometimes, we need to have difficult conversations and political cartoons have long served as a catalyst for such discussion.
Even though Taylor seems to have violated Delta’s social media policy, it’s a bad policy in the first place. There’s a difference, however, between a bad policy and a legal policy.
You can read Taylor’s complaint here.
A black Delta flight attendant is suing for racial discrimination after she was terminated for sharing an anti-Trump political cartoon. She claims non-black employees were not punished as harshly. If she can prove that, she certainly has a case, but to me the more important issue is that Delta is terminating employees for expressing the sort of political discussion that marks a vibrant republic.