This has to be one of the strangest instances of a former airline employee suing the company for wrongful termination.
Ida Gomez Llanos, a 79 year old who had been with Delta for 56 years, claims she was targeted by the company and colleagues, and wrongfully terminated.
79 Years Old & $250K/Year
Let’s start with what is probably as shocking to many as the lawsuit as such. Yes, in the US we have flight attendants who are 79 years old, and even older than that.
Gomez started at a predecessor to Delta in 1962, and she was the most senior flight attendant for Delta in their Los Angeles base, and one of the five most senior flight attendants at the company altogether.
There’s no mandatory retirement age for flight attendants, and as long as they can pass their evacuation tests every year, they’re allowed to keep flying. While I don’t mind that as such, I do take issue with how lax the tests are, because if you fail the evacuation test you can take it over and over until you pass.
As far as the $250K per year goes, that certainly sounds on the very high side. The pay scale tops out after a certain number of years, and with 50+ years of seniority your pay doesn’t keep increasing.
So while she was no doubt making way more than a junior flight attendant, there must be a lot more to this story. For example, she must be very creative with picking up overtime, and be flying constantly.
Gomez’s Allegations Against Delta
According to Gomez’s lawsuit, the campaign to get her fired was going on for a long time. She claims this was a coordinated effort by both management and colleagues:
- She argues that her colleagues were jealous and resentful of her seniority, since it allowed her first dibs at bidding on routes, and also at picking up additional flights; as a result she claims that employees filed defamatory reports against her
- She claims that Delta was trying to get rid of the highest seniority flight attendants since they were the most costly, and she claims that Delta welcomed any criticism of their most senior employees in order to achieve this
Gomez also claims she was an excellent flight attendant, and received many awards over the years, including perfect attendance awards, and was also nominated for Delta’s Chairman’s Club several times, for the top 1% of employees.
She claims that the accusations against her started in 2018. You can read the full lawsuit here, though I’ll just hit on some of the highlights:
- Gomez was accused of paying a colleague $100 in order to switch positions with her on the plane because she couldn’t reach the overhead bins (she’s 4’11”), and paying someone to switch positions violates Delta’s rules; the flight attendant who accused her of this was soon fired for sexually assaulting a male flight attendant by grabbing his crotch, and she also ended up taking back her statement about Gomez
- In a separate incident, Gomez was accused of not working in her assigned position, which she denies
- Gomez had been informed that a colleague was heard saying to others that “I am trying to get her fired any way I can”
- Other flight attendants accused her of not being able to arm & disarm the door, and she claims that they were “circulating pictures of her”
- Flight attendants made other false statements about her, like that she was stealing chocolate, eating food before serving passengers, putting Bailey’s in her coffee during a flight, and being stopped at customs for stealing; she strongly defends against this, saying she doesn’t drink alcohol and doesn’t eat chocolate, since she’s a diabetic
Gomez filed several reports against colleagues for harassment, but things only got worse. She claims that:
- She was followed around by one colleague who was constantly trying to take pictures of her doing things wrong
- Another colleague threw a large bag full of covers directly at her head
- Colleagues put Delta service items near her bag and took pictures of it to make it look like she was stealing
The company eventually said that Ms. Gomez “had a very hard time overall staying on track and would not take any accountability for her actions.”
The final straw was when Gomez brought a carton of milk back into the US after a flight from Sydney. She had “inadvertently” failed to mark “yes” on the customs form for bringing back any animal products. She was randomly searched, and they found the milk, so she was fined.
There was then allegedly miscommunication with her Delta managers about whether she took the milk from the plane, or if she had brought it onboard. The purser on the flight had also accused her of taking nine boxes of cereal from the flight, which she claims is false.
What Delta Says In Response
For their part, Delta just issued the following statement regarding the lawsuit:
“When a violation of company policy is identified or inappropriate conduct is reported, Delta conducts a thorough investigation to determine the appropriate course of action — considering many factors, including the employee’s overall performance record and length of service. Decisions like these are not made lightly or without a comprehensive review by many.”
My Take On This
As I read this lawsuit, I couldn’t help but stop every paragraph and ask myself “what the actual f&*$?”
This story is so incredibly strange. Everything about it. Obviously as of now we only have one side of the story, which is the lawsuit. But this whole thing just seems totally nuts.
Was the entire LAX Delta base working together to get her fired? The fact that she kept flying over and over with people who were allegedly trying to ruin her life is bizarre. Were they intentionally bidding to get on her flight to do that? And what was their real motive?
For once I actually have no clue whatsoever to make of a case like this. Some very strong accusations are being made, like her literally drinking during a flight, constantly stealing from the plane, and much more. She denies basically everything.