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The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Delta flight attendant fired over anti-Trump cartoon, lawsuit says

(Washington Post Illustration)

A former Delta Air Lines flight attendant says she was fired for sharing a cartoon of Donald Trump wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood on her personal social media, according to an employment discrimination lawsuit she filed.

The lawsuit says the flight attendant, Leondra Taylor, an African American woman, admitted to sharing the cartoon on her personal Facebook page. The image, which was created by editorial cartoonist Aislin, was originally published in the Montreal Gazette in fall 2020, and depicts a hooded Trump and then-candidate Joe Biden debating each other, with the moderator telling Trump, “Thank you, Mr. President, for wearing your mask.” During the first presidential debate that year, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to disavow white supremacists, to which he responded, “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

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Taylor’s lawsuit hopes to recover damages for what she says is Delta’s racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race discrimination in employment, and Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prevents race discrimination when “mak[ing] and enforc[ing] contracts.”

Taylor’s post was discovered while Delta was reportedly looking through her Facebook page in regard to an allegation by another flight attendant, Vivian Nguyen, that Taylor had celebrated Nguyen’s termination in a Facebook post, according to the lawsuit. Taylor’s alleged post claimed that Nguyen was fired after she posted a photograph of Michelle Obama “next to a photo of a monkey dressed in similar clothes” with the caption, “His escape from pregnancy…” and appeared to agree with the post’s implications. Although Delta could not find Taylor’s alleged post celebrating Nguyen’s termination after sharing the Michelle Obama photograph, the company discovered the Trump cartoon, the lawsuit said.

Taylor and Nguyen did not immediately respond to The Post’s requests for comment.

In the lawsuit, lawyers for Taylor argue that her posting of the cartoon “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.”

They also argued that Taylor’s non-African American employees were not subject to “such harsh punishments,” and alleged that Nguyen was only fired after it was determined she also violated other company policies in addition to its social media policy. The court documents also listed what they said were examples of White employees who were not terminated for personal social media posts relating to race.

Delta Air Lines said Taylor’s complaint about the company’s rationale in firing her is “not an accurate or complete explanation of the company’s termination decision.”

“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,” said Benjamin Zhang, a company spokesman.