Melissa Chinery and Laura Medlin are two flight attendants who are suing American Airlines for negligence in handling their sexual harassment case. Forbes.com detailed the nature of the Chinery’s and Medlin’s claim. Chinery is a member of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) union. She faced harsh online harassment from male union members and colleagues after Chinery ran for APFA local president. Medlin says she faced similar harassment after attempting to take part in union activities. Both were called sexist, derogatory names such as “sow”, “flipper”(a euphemism for prostitute), and they used the c-word. After filing a report with the American Airlines Human Resources department, little was done to address Chinery’s harassment, according to Chinery. The online harassment escalated the more Chinery tried to seek help from within. Her car was keyed and anonymous numbers called to harass her mother. Amid the increasing attacks, American Airlines, according to Chinery, continuously failed to provide the two attendants with adequate support and protection.
The litigation between Chinery and Medlin against American Airlines started in June of 2016. Over the last two years, Chinery and Medlin provided ample evidence of a neglectful Human Resources department in their case. Dan Cleverly, a senior Human Resource investigator, admitted during the trial that Chinery’s harassment complaints were not properly investigated.
American Airline’s failure to enforce its social media policy showed a lack of understanding of the evolving nature of workplace harassment and discrimination. The utilization of social media as a means to alienate, intimidate, and bully women into submission cannot be tolerated. Additionally, the leadership of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) should do a better job of countering harassment and intimidation by its members.
In September, Chinery and Medlin announced that are seeking an appeal after their case was ruled in favor of American Airlines. We stand with Chinery and Medlin and hope the appellate judge considers the new dimensions of the modern workplace. The continued fight for respect in the workplace needs to extend into online spaces as the internet becomes increasingly integrated into our lives. Women deserve safe working environments online and offline.
Rebecca A. is a Government Relations Intern at the National Organization for Women (NOW) Action Center in Washington, DC. She is a student at the George Washington University.