UPDATE: Jan. 30, 2020: Delta will roll out a new uniform program for flight attendants and airport customer service (ACS) above-wing employees "hopefully in late 2021," according to an internal email sent by Allison Ausband, Delta's senior vice president of in-flight service. The email was published by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
The airliner is also proving a variety of interim uniform options to flight attendants and in-flight service employees in the meantime, including materials that are OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certified, Ausband said.
"We are all learning through our dialogue, and I'm looking forward to continuing to learn throughout this process," Ausband wrote. "We are confident that between these interim options and the new uniform we will have something that works for everyone, and we are committed to getting this right."
- A group of more than 500 Delta Air Lines employees filed a class action suit Dec. 31 against clothing retailer Lands' End, alleging that work uniforms provided by the company caused them a variety of health issues (Andrews et. al. v. Lands' End, Inc. et. al., No. 19-cv-01066 (S.D.Wis. Dec. 31, 2019)).
- The suit alleged that employees have been required to wear the uniforms since May 2018 and that the uniforms contain "various finishes and chemical additives" to achieve high-stretch, wrinkle- and stain-resistant, waterproof, anti-static and deodorizing characteristics. The range of ailments alleged included respiratory distress, skin blisters, skin rashes and blurred vision.
- Bruce Maxwell, attorney at Terrell Hogan and a representative for Delta workers, said in a statement that the uniforms were issued to approximately 64,000 Delta employees in the U.S. A spokesperson for Lands' End told HR Dive in an email that the company does not comment on pending litigation. Plaintiffs in the suit against Lands' End are seeking damages and injunctive relief, including a recall of the uniforms and ongoing monitoring of plaintiffs’ health, per court documents.
This isn't the first time airline employees have sued over their uniforms. Similar health-related issues led to lawsuits against competitors, including Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, Vox reported.
In many industries, employers have begun to relax uniform requirements. Companies ranging from Target to Goldman Sachs made the updates to their dress codes last year in part to offer employees more control over their comfort; such decisions can also be part of talent attraction strategy, experts previously told HR Dive. But even in industries with more formal requirements, experts said management should be up front about expectations and requirements.
Last year saw several instances of employment-related litigation involving flight attendants at U.S. airlines, Delta included. Earlier in December, the company faced a suit from one of its most senior former flight attendants, who brought allegations of age-based discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination. Delta previously told HR Dive following the news that it stood by its decision and investigation processes.
Elsewhere, discrimination claims reached American Airlines back in March, when the Association of Professional Flight Attendants filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging the airline's attendance policy discriminated against women. Also in December, a group of female pilots and flight attendants for Frontier Airlines sued the company over claims of pregnancy and breastfeeding bias.