"You Should Be Ashamed" - AA Flight Attendant Calls Out CEO!
December 15, 2021
By Kaley Johnson, Fort-Worth Star Telegram
A woman who says she was sexually assaulted as a flight attendant for American Airlines sent a letter to the airline’s CEO Wednesday in which she urged him to “protect the women and men who work for you.” Kimberly Goesling, 52, announced in the letter that she will be retiring after working for the airline for 30 years.
The Fort Worth woman filed a lawsuit in January 2020 against the airline and celebrity chef Mark Sargeant, who she says assaulted her while they were on work trip for American Airlines in 2018. In response to the allegations, Sargeant told a British media outlet that he did go to Goesling’s room and tried to kiss her,but left when Goesling said she was not interested. He told the outlet he apologized for “the indignity of my behavior that night, the dishonor to my wife and the lack of respect shown towards Ms Goesling.”
In a previous interview with the Star-Telegram, Goesling said American Airlines knew Sargeant had a history of allegations of inappropriate sexual relationships and alcohol abuse, but the airline hired him anyway. When she reported the assault to the company, Goesling said, the airline removed her from her top position and retaliated against her.
The federal suit, which was filed in the 342nd Judicial District Court, is scheduled to go to trial in Tarrant County on Jan. 24.
In response to the allegations surrounding Goesling’s case, American Airlines said in a previous statement that flight attendants are trained to address a wide range of issues that may arise in flight and “we want our team members to feel empowered and encouraged to report and address sexual harassment and misconduct.” Goesling addressed her letter, which was publicly released Wednesday, to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker. Parker has been the CEO since 2013, but announced in early December that he will retire in 2022. Parker did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
LETTER TO AMERICAN AIRLINES CEO
“Here is the real truth,” Goesling writes in her letter. “I shouldn’t be the one who has to leave. It should be you that left long before now, you and every other manager and individual at American who played a role in making the company’s response to my sexual assault yet another attack on me and my family.” In 2018, Goesling was sent to Germany on a work trip that included Sargeant. One night at the hotel, Sargeant got drunk and made advances on Goesling, who left the bar and went to her room, she said.
According to the suit, American Airlines managers gave Sargeant her hotel room number. Sargeant went to her room, forced his way in and sexually assaulted her, Goesling said.
When she reported the assault to American Airlines, Goesling said, HR and management questioned her story, asked her inappropriate questions about the assault and discouraged her from making an official report. She was removed from her top position and demoted, Goesling and her attorney said. In her letter, Goesling says management promised to pay for her treatment after the assault, promised her time away for that treatment and pledged not to retaliate against her. The company broke all those promises, Goesling writes. “You should be ashamed,” Goesling write to Parker. “But I believe you feel no shame nor, somehow, any responsibility for having hired the man who attacked me. Because I feel responsibility for the men and women who will remain behind at American Airlines when I leave, I am passing along a short list of things you and the airline need to do differently to protect the women and men who work for you.” Goesling made several recommendations to Parker about what the company should do in the future to protect people from sexual assault and handle sexual assault accusations. She urged the company to follow its own standards of business conduct, which promise employees won’t be retaliated against for reporting “illegal or unethical conduct.” Secondly, Goesling recommends the company provide proper training to its management on how to treat employees who are victims of sexual assault.
“In what part of our training did it say it was okay to ask a sexual assault victim what she was wearing when the attack happened?” Goesling writes. “This is what one of your own HR managers asked me.”
Last, Goesling tells Parker to prioritize employees on the frontline of the company, including flight attendants, ticket agents and maintenance team members. “Please take care of my passengers and my colleagues,” the letter concludes. “Please treat them better than you have me.” Goesling’s case has brought national attention to what many employees say is a negligent and toxic culture at American Airlines in terms of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Goesling and her attorney, Robert Miller of Miller Bryant LLP, heard from “a significant” number of women who say they, too, were the victims of a sweep-it-under-the-rug culture at American Airlines.
The airline industry as a whole has a problem with reporting and handling sexual misconduct, according to a report published in March 2020 by the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force. The task force was created in 2018 due to a rise in sexual misconduct incidents on planes. On Wednesday, Parker also faced questions from a Senate committee about how the company used federal aid during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers’ Research executive director Will Hild wrote a letter to the company’s incoming CEO, Robert Isom, about the company’s low ranking in consumer reports and controversial stock buyback. Hild pointed out that under Parker’s tenure, American Airlines “earned a reputation as the worst U.S. airline for consumers.”