After being fired for being “Too Fat,” an overweight flight attendant sues the airline.
Chelsia Blackmon, a former flight attendant for Spirit Airlines, has filed a lawsuit against the budget airline after she was fired from her job due to her waist being too large to fit in the crew jump seat. Blackmon is now seeking an unspecified amount in compensation for being mistreated by Spirit Airlines. According to her; she was not given alternative accommodations to allow her to complete her job duties safely.
Her dismissal was not solely based on her weight, Blackmon claims, but that as a black woman, she was given less accommodation than a white flight attendant who faced the same issue. While both flight attendants were unable to buckle their seat belts and sit in the crew jump seat, Blackmon was fired immediately, while the white worker, however, was given the opportunity to lose weight.
Although Spirit Airlines does not specify any weight limits for its flight crews, these workers are required to fit into the jump seats and buckle themselves in safely to ensure that there are no issues in case of turbulence or other mid-air trouble. Blackmon then filed her lawsuit in Florida, where Spirit Airlines is based. She claimed that she went through all the proper training and compliance protocols before being hired to work for the airline. She also passed a test where she was strapped into a jump seat with a four-point harness.
Blackmon completed several flights without any issues, fitting into most of the jump seats with the four-point harness. However, during a flight on September 3, 2021, aboard an Airbus A319 plane, she found that she could no longer buckle herself into her jump seat due to her size. She was asked to leave the plane and was placed on administrative leave, pending a meeting where executives would discuss whether she would be allowed to continue working as a flight attendant.
After demonstrating that she could buckle herself into a jump seat, Blackmon was allowed back on another plane in October 2021. However, she could not fit in the jump seat and was therefore not allowed to work for the flight. By November 2021, Blackmon was then fired by Spirit Airlines for failing to fit into her assigned seat. Meanwhile, a white flight attendant who faced the same issue was given several months to lose weight so they could fit in the seat.
Blackmon’s lawsuit claims that Spirit Airlines engaged in “discriminatory and illegal differential treatment based upon her race,” causing her to suffer “lost wages, compensatory damages, mental anguish and suffering.” She also claims that Spirit “was in willful and malicious and in reckless disregard of her civil rights.”
“Blackmon states that defendant’s actions were in willful and malicious and in reckless disregard of her civil rights protected by the Act and subjects Spirit [Airlines] to punitive damages,” the attorney wrote. However, Spirit Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It is important to note that discrimination in the workplace, whether it is based on weight, race, or any other characteristic, is illegal and can have serious consequences for the employer. The case of Chelsia Blackmon serves as a reminder that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees to perform their job duties safely and without discrimination.