Lawsuit: United Employee Called Passenger “Monkey”

Filed Under: United

A new lawsuit alleges some pretty disturbing things that a United employee said to a passenger. A Houston-area actress and motivational speaker is suing United after a February 26 flight.

She was waiting for her luggage in Houston when she asked a United Airlines representative about speaking to someone about getting reimbursed after her flight canceled and she had to make her way to a different airport.

The passenger claims that the United employee told her to stop looking at her with her “monkey face” and also called her a “shining monkey.”

The woman’s lawyer alleges that other people witnessed the incident, and asked the United agent to calm down.

She asked United employees to call the police, but they didn’t, so she called them herself. The United employee received a citation for disorderly conduct.

Obviously we don’t fully know what the exchange was like. It could have been that the exchange got heated on both sides, though there is absolutely nothing that excuses speaking to a customer (or any human, for that matter) in such a way.

The passenger’s attorney had the following to say:

“Unfortunately, the racism experienced by Cacilie was not an isolated incident with United Airlines, but part of a companywide pattern of racial discrimination. We are going to fight to enforce Cacilie Hughes’ civil rights, to ensure that United Airlines eliminates its practice of racial discrimination, and to ensure the ongoing criminal prosecution of United Airline’s racist employee Carmella. Racial slurs like ‘shining monkey’ should be relics of history, not resurrected to fuel the fire of racism faced by so many African Americans in today’s society and condoned on United Airlines flights.”

Meanwhile United issued the following statement:

“At United, we believe that the diversity of our workforce makes us stronger. Together, we proudly hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. This incident is deeply offensive and does not reflect the fundamental values of our company and our 90,000 employees. That is why we took immediate action to remove this individual from the job. Since then, we have been following all of the required procedures under this individual’s union contract and are actively pursuing termination.”

Here’s a Click2Houston news story about the incident, including an interview with the passenger:

I can’t personally vouch for whether or not United has a culture of racism. For what it’s worth, American Airlines has been accused of the same, and the unfortunate reality may just be that racism is still alive and well in our country, and that’s reflected in a lot of major companies.

What I can say is that I find there’s a disconnect between how United management seems to view their employees, and the reality of interacting with United’s frontline staff. United said that the Dr. Dao incident was a turning point for the airline, though I’m not so sure.

Like every other airline, United has some good employees, though in my opinion they also have some of the most openly hostile employees of any airline.

For one, this isn’t the first case of a United employee acting in such an extreme way. This is the same airline where a customer service representative pushed a 71 year old man to the ground:

When I fly United, I feel like all too often gate agents and flight attendants are barking orders at passengers, rather than treating them like valued guests. Obviously calling someone a monkey is on a completely different level, but I do think United has a long way to go when it comes to their culture.

  1. If the passenger has the negative saying recorded on their cell phone, that makes an even more solid case in court for millions in $ gUaP $ after filing a “United Airlines lawsuit!”

  2. United could run such a great airline if only it weren’t for all those pesky passengers getting in the way!

  3. I’m confused. United employees call black passengers monkeys and you don’t think there’s a culture of racism at United?

  4. @ Joe Chivas — What I said is that a single employee at a company of 90K+ calling someone a monkey doesn’t necessarily mean the entire airline is racist.

  5. “and the unfortunate reality may just be that racism is still alive and well in our country, and that’s reflected in a lot of major companies.”

    It is not a ‘maybe’ it is a definitely.

    Besides the point, I am not sure you can change a culture of customer hostility overnight. And I have always felt that United viewed their customers with more contempt than most airlines. They remind me of the bad days with Northwest Airlines.

    That being said, so much is corporate culture and so much is personal culture. Some people are just racists and it comes out when they lose their temper (if that is what actually happened). Anger brings out the worst in some people and not always reflective of the corporation they work for.

    No big surprise here.

  6. If that’s her in the video, she is beautiful woman. Would like to see a photo of the filthy creature that called her monkey!!!

  7. A lawsuit because you were allegedly called a name? “Racism”, is still the go to micro-aggression for those with $$ signs in their eyes. The end is near!

  8. @lucky why do u answer to Joe Chivas he knows exactly what you intend but just tried to makes issues

  9. This type of article fans internet flames though maybe drives clicks. Is this type of article (he said/she said) really a part of your coverage space?

  10. I’m confused, if someone calls you an openly racist slur you complain to the company and get them fired. What’s the lawsuit for? Now we’re going to sue companies over name calling?

  11. @joe chivas. Back again lol

    Sadly people will play the race card when things don’t go their way

    This is hearsay and there are two sides to the story

    I suspect this “ actress “ probably escalated the situation given that she most likely provoked the staff member

    Has she any evidence ?

    According to IMBd she appeared in 4 b-movies. The last 3 years ago

  12. The lawsuit is because the plaintiff attorney feels that there is a case to be made that it’s not one incident but a pattern, practice and culture of racial discrimination in the company. If it weren’t for these types of cases led by one plaintiff based on their experience then there would never have been big landmark cases throughout Americas history that changed policy and laws.

  13. To make a couple of generalizations:
    1. United is worse than other airlines at handling PR incidents including those of alleged racism.
    2. This site have on average more negative stories about United than other airlines.
    Whether there are stats to back up either….I can’t vouch.

  14. This would be a non story, except that the passenger happened to be black. Otherwise, confrontations between people happen all day long, and while unfortunate, is not grounds for a lawsuit neither against the person who said the disparaging remarks nor against the company that happened to employ that person. This individual is hoping to flash the racism card to make this a story, and to implicate the airline by proximity. Obviously any judge that is there to uphold the Constitution as sworn in will laugh this out of court, but hopes for either a settlement or a social justice warrior of a judge that wishes to make a point and isn’t bothered by trivialities such as the truth and legalities.

  15. A lawsuit to change policies and laws regarding a private company/airline and the actions of its employee? She was provided the contractually agreed air travel (after some re-routing to which she can request reimbursement per the contract). Something she doesn’t have a “right” to. IE she was not denied air travel due to her race. If you don’t like the manner in which United delivered the contractually agreed service you vote with your $$ and not fly them again. If the violation of the contract was so bad then you go to some form of small claims court to get the cost of your ticket back. You do not have the right to go through life unoffended. If a companies employee offends you then it’s a company problem, not a legal one. BS like this is a significant part of the problem with the US legal system as a whole.

  16. Maybe it wasn’t racist but the truth? Some people have short legs and are called dachshund, others a pointed nose/face being called ferret. Maybe she has the face of a pretty chimp – where’s the Point?

  17. So, when you a person monkey face for being annoying or stupid his/her reaction depends on their race? Isn’t that racism

  18. All this is is pulling a race card. First she’s black and she’s female. As stated. She WASN’T denied anything because of her race. She was called a name. Period. I’m also female. I’m not black, but I will not say my race. I DO get called names, sometimes several times a day or month or year because of my race, my height, my looks, etc., but it just that, name calling. All she’s done is had her name thrown out in public hoping for some money or some film company see her so that She may get picked for better films instead of b rated ones. But I will agree that it was wrong to call her a name and that United did the correct thing and terminated the employee.

  19. I still am loyal to United because they will take an unneeded dog off your hands for only 5,000 MileagePlus miles (though that is increasing in November).

  20. I work for a major airline and I don’t talk to passengers anymore for this reason. I tried to help an old man who fell in the terminal and his wife started screaming at me, so I just walked away.

  21. She is too sensitive. Yeah so what if she got called names. Deal with it.

    Only whites can be sensitive. And get posters here banned because they called a specific group of whites names.

  22. Note that the police and United itself says this incident happened and the employee is being terminated, but we still get all of the “it’s just her word against the agent’s and she’s just after money” comments. The facts aren’t up for dispute, everyone agrees that this happened!

  23. People now these days think everything is all about them. Let’s get back to being kind human beings, life is short don’t be so crabby , more people fly than ever the most important issue should be SAFETY, and UNITED AIRLINES does that very well. everyone take a deep breathe and be kind to each other

  24. This United employee definitely behaved in a racist and insulting way but then what has United Airlines got to do with this?Does this airlines recommend its employees to be racist or bigots? No
    Therefore United Airlines needs to fire this employee .
    The passenger who was insulted by the employee could sue the employee for offensive language or insults but why sue the company ?

  25. “‘Racism’, is still the go to micro-aggression for those with $$ signs in their eyes.”

    The word “micro-agression” does not mean what you think it means.

    You really should Google it.

    Calling someone a racist is labeling (fairly or not), not a micro-aggression.

  26. @Ben (Lucky)

    You need to update your post with critical information that is missing. The police have charged the United employee for what she did based on eyewitness evidence. There is no doubt about what happened. United acknowledged it as well.

    You have a lot of racist trolls trying to sow confusion and trying to minimize what happened. Please do a better job moderating your comments.

  27. @Joe Chivas

    One “alleged” incident doesn’t make a “culture of racism.

    @Mark F.
    The only racists these days are the ones who say racism everywhere where none exists.

  28. I flew United only once from Chicago-New York and I got stuck at ORD due to a hurricane. Staff on the ground was rude and not well prepared for their job in such circunstances. Promissed my self to avoid them at all costs from that day on. BTW I only flew UAL because COPA changed my schedule and I had to go thru ORD. Otherwise I wouldn´t have chosen them due to all bad news we have been reading in the press lately. What happens there? Why so many complains?

    I feel sorry for all this sad situation this actress suffered.

  29. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the new improved comments policy at OMAT is maybe still going to need to work out the kinks.

    I guess the problem with announcing that you have a new policy with respect to comments is that you then kind of have to walk the walk. I would have expected that you would have anticipated that this post would bring out some of the crazies, yet comments like “maybe she has the face of a pretty chimp” has been allowed to stand.

    Are you guys ok with that? Is there a comments policy or not? I would suggest that maybe the answer should be not, if you’re going to leave stuff like that in the comments. Otherwise, it starts to get difficult to understand what you are endorsing or tolerating and what you are not. Put simply, I cannot fathom you having a policy but not deleting repulsive crap like that, unless you’re ok with it, which would be troubling.

  30. On my last flights with United, the airport agents and flight stewards could not have been nicer or more considerate.

    Since the complaint focuses on culture, we all should remember as passengers that we bring culture with us as well. Sounds like the complainant might have brought very aggressive, hostile cultural values with her and thought that was alright to express them. She really called police because her flight was cancelled? Just think about that for a minute. Really? I hope I never see her or sit next to her on a flight.

  31. The article says the United employee received a citation. That is the most concerning thing. Free speech no matter who is offended is a fundamental right that shall not be infringed. You do have a right to call anyone anything without it being a criminal matter. If the police issued a citation for that they committed a crime. The employee can be fired by the airline but that’s all.

    In this case there so far has been no hard evidence provided and someone acting like a clown being called out “acting like a monkey” seems fair. People in this society are more concerned about words and feelings than crime and violence perpetrated by usually one or two groups. They are more worried about someone being offended and of course receiving “compensation” than actual crime.

  32. Before you all judge the other person and call them a racist, think about this. 1) the lady probably “demanded” compensation and was called names after a few minutes and repeated times being told by the agent can’t give the compensation, 2) the employee might have had a bad day or week being yelled at, I mean People asking reasonable requests and just lost it on this lady 3) the now ex employee might have been supporting a family 4) If you never dealt with the public, news flash you can be quite the asshole to customer service people 5) just because the person might have been offensive to the lady in question, they might not be racist, you don’t last long dealing with the public long if you are. 6) I have seen enough people that “claim” to be civil are total jerks and finally I think the lady wants to win the victim lotto.

  33. @Luckyladyd I think it might be included if you’re Plat or 1K, but have never been either so, not sure.

  34. @Joe are you suggesting that the racist misdemeanor of one employee justifies your overall generalization and name-calling of an entire company with over 90,000 employees? If so, you should work on your critical thinking abilities.

  35. I have no patience for racism and apparently neither does UA, Lucky and a majority of posters on OMMAT. Some others here, apparently less concerned.

    One of these days, a few more of my fellow posters will wake up to the fact that racism IS a big deal whether by an airline, a hotel company or just you or me.

  36. Icarus i agree!! But the United gate agents can be brutal…go to denver!!! but Atl Delta agents can also be crude and rude!!

  37. Sounds like there is way way more to this story than what this “actress” is claiming, because her version makes ZERO sense. I don’t know what was said, but what it certainly sounds like is that this passenger didn’t remain calm and was deliberately provoking the employee. Doesn’t justify an employee acting out that way (and it certainly does not justify the use of racial language if that part did happen) but it calls into question this woman’s honesty when she acts like it was just a racist verbal attack out of the blue. The fact that the police issued a citation to the employee indicates that no matter what was said that the employee clearly did not conduct them in a professional manner, but I’m willing to bet there is a whole lot more to this story.

  38. A B-Grade bimbo who needed some attention LOL and Americans fall for it. I feel sorry for United. Devil if you do, devil if they don’t. Maybe if the B-grader gets some money LOL, she could donate it to a zoo to feed the monkeys bananas for a year. She can join them.

  39. The fella working for United was operating on Uniteds behalf and on duty when this happened. That makes United clearly liable. They should fire him immediately but he was on the United clock when this happened, and wearing the United uniform. United is probably going to settle this one Id guess.

  40. there is a Bodycam proving they lied and only wanted money from United in the first moments, her sister was a Delta Agent and they both stepped outside and breached Security when the airport was closed due to lightining and she was mad at the agent for her telling her to come back inside . There are many breaches of the United Management and the Union Contract on the Bodycam. Yes, there are 2 sides of this story and the truth is about to come out. This Agent had a Perfect record for 30 years.
    Also, this passenger had a fight with another agent upstairs at the ticket counter in IAH the day before and it has been covered up. You decide…………

  41. there is a Bodycam proving they lied and only wanted money from United in the first moments, her sister was a Delta Agent and they both stepped outside and breached Security when the airport was closed due to lightining and she was mad at the agent for her telling her to come back inside . There are many breaches on the Bodycam. Yes, there are 2 sides of this story and the truth is about to come out. This Agent had a Perfect record for 30 years.
    Also, this passenger had a fight with another agent upstairs at the ticket counter in IAH the day before and it has been covered up. You decide…………

  42. the Agent never said ” monkey” she said please” stop the monkeyshines and go upstairs to retrieve the Supervisors because that is where they are” She never asked the agent for compensation, she asked the Team Leader for compensation, not the agent, there are mutiple violations in the bodycam against the agent. There is a police bodycam proving the AGENT who had a perfect record for 30 years working 3400 hrs a year had no complaints until this false accusation came into play, this Agent is INNOCENT.

  43. just FYI , the lies implied on this innocent agent were found ” INNOCENT-BY JURY: on NOV 4th , 2019 in the Houston Municipal Court so this Cecille Hughes was lying to obtain a lawsuit against United Airlines, I for one was in the courtroom and witnessed her lying under OATH, and her Uncle contacted the agent and conveyed to her that Cecille Hughes does this ALL THE TIME wherever she goes, so just watch your back with her HOLLYWOOD. She LOST the CASE for her GREED!!! Cecille Hughes anyone in your path is a VICTIM

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