Lawsuit alleges anti-Jewish discrimination by Delta

3:54 p.m Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 Business
The exterior of the A330-300 is shown as aircraft taxi for take off in the background. KENT D. JOHNSON /kdjohnson@ajc.com

A lawsuit filed this week by flight attendants alleges Delta Air Lines discriminates against Jewish, Israeli or Hebrew-speaking employees and passengers traveling to Israel.

Brian Mildenberg, a Philadelphia attorney representing the plaintiffs, urged Delta “to review and reform all relevant practices on their flights to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and to remedy all complaints immediately.”

Atlanta-based Delta released a statement saying it “strongly denies the allegations of discrimination described in this suit and will defend itself vigorously against them.”

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York by current and former Delta flight attendants Cynthia Fukelman, Tsipora Kuba, Young Sook Sanchez and Anthony Panza. It alleges Delta’s field service managers “would intimidate these flight attendants by insulting them,” and that, at meetings, actions took place that were “suggestive of discriminatory and prejudicial treatment.”

The plaintiffs regularly worked Delta’s flight from New York to Tel Aviv, Israel. Panza lives in Pompano Beach, Fla., while the others live in New York.

The complaint says Fukelman was fired in March 2017 by Delta for “allegedly missing a flight due to a medical condition,” but alleges the firing was “an act of discrimination.”

The suit said Delta management “operate under an express assumption that ethnic Jews and Israelis, as employees and passengers, cannot be trusted, are aggressive and inappropriate, and engage in what are deemed to be ‘strange’ behaviors by conducting prayers on the flight and requiring special dietary accommodations (kosher meals).”

The lawsuit also alleges that, “solely on the basis of their Jewish and Israel ethnicity and ancestry,” Delta “engaged in anti-Semitic employee investigations and disciplinary actions” against employees who have shared their travel benefits with ethnically Jewish, Hebrew and/or Israeli people.

And the suit, which seeks damages and an injunction to “force Delta to stop this insidious racial discriminatory and anti-Semitic misconduct,” says Delta punished flight attendants by denying them promotions, subjecting them to harassment and abuse or restricting their employment rights.

Delta in its written statement in response said it “values diversity in all aspects of its business and has zero tolerance for discrimination.”

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AJC Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi keeps you updated on the latest news about Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Delta Air Lines and the airline industry in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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In other Delta news:

The Delta "Queen of the Skies" 747 airplane rests at Pinal Airpark in Marana, Arizona, Wednesday, January 3, 2018. After a tour across the United Staes, the Delta "Queen of the Skies" 747 airplane was retired. The plane was flown to a desert area in Marana, Arizona, where it joined other retired 747 Delta airplanes. The Queen's last flight pattern was guided by Delta pilots Steve Hanlon and Paul Gallaher. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM