Fireman Turns Flight Attendant ...
Until he was Burned!
Flight attendant Clay Kallman was featured in the post "Who is Serving you Coffee?" with my promise to finish his story today.... so here you go!
Clay has experienced a life with many challenges. But no matter what crossed his path, even the derailment of his planned career, Clay never gave up. He always did what it took to earn a living with a smile on his face. It's no surprise that each opportunity opened a door to the next. He is charismatic, intelligent, hardworking, caring, and passionate about health and safety. Everything an airline should want in a flight attendant. Yet, JetBlue terminated him.
The big question is why?
Before we learn of the event that JetBlue alleged to cause the termination, I want to share a little more of the story. When I wrote there were challenges in the early days of being a Flight Attendant at JetBlue, what that meant was... as an initial inflight instructor he found his time there to be an "abusive" setting where trainees cried daily. Not a culture he felt comfortable in. The schedules of a reserve flight attendant were also horrific. It wasn't until he was able to hold a line when he truly began to enjoy the job. But he did not go silently into those skies.
While Clay was a fireman, he had created a fitness and wellness program at the Orange County Fire and Rescue. He tried to do the same thing at JetBlue. Clay was deeply concerned with the lifestyle of Flight Attendants at JetBlue to include the lack of healthy meal choices, sleep, fitness and medical support while at work. He not only pitched his ideas regarding health, but also how to reduce waste and minimize plastic usage to Joanna Geraghty the current President/COO.
"She wasn't impressed.
Especially my ideas to cut down on
plastic and waste."
For nearly seven years, Clay flew as a Flight Attendant without incident. Well, other than he was involved in a post on the "JetBlue Tell Inflight intranet" in which he criticized the rollout of a new cart program for serving food. He was required to attend a meeting on June 20, 2018 with JetBlue representatives including Wanda Garcia, Crew Relations Field Generalist, and Lenda Reyes, Kallman’s team leader to discuss his posts. During this meeting he reported some very disturbing behavior that had been ongoing at Jet Blue.
Clay reported that some Flight Attendants and Pilots had been making anti-Semitic comments about the Jewish passengers who frequented their flights. Those remarks were so insulting and demeaning that I do not feel comfortable repeating them. If you would like to read the complaint and see what he reported click here: Clay Kallman V JetBlue . The comments are on page three.
The Flight Attendants and Pilots who made such anti-Semitic comments did not want to work those flights with mostly Jewish passengers. The comments were made in Clay's presence with blatant disregard for the fact that he himself is Jewish, a fact that his crew mates were aware of.
Please note that there are incredible pilots and flight attendants at JetBlue who would never speak such things, but all it takes is a few. Even one is too many!
Clay was assured that his allegations would be investigated and that a letter would be sent out to the Flight Attendants and Pilots indicating that management was aware of the situation and that such behavior is not acceptable. Clay was never contacted again about the matter and the promised letter instructing Flight Attendants and Pilots to refrain from anti-Semitic behavior was never sent out. Consequently, the anti-Semitic conduct about which Clay complained continued unabated.
On June 27, 2019, Clay Kallman was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes. This would change the course of his career.
On January 3, 2020, Clay worked a flight to Buffalo, New York. The next day he went to the downtown Buffalo area in the late afternoon to watch the professional Buffalo hockey and football games. He began to feel ill shortly after and decided that it would be a good idea to take a taxi back to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, since he had to work early the next morning.
When he arrived to the hotel, he was feeling even worse and knew that he needed food. He was exhibiting signs typical of a diabetic episode: disorientation, sluggish movement, impediments to speech, and “acetone breath.” Misperceiving his diabetic episode as inebriation, the hotel restaurant refused to serve Clay food, thereby aggravating the diabetic episode. He tried to explain that he simply needed to eat. They refused and called the police and he ended up in jail for trespassing. Clay spent at least five hours in police custody without medical attention, blood sugar monitoring or nourishment of any kind until he was released somewhere around two in the morning (2:00 A.M.) on January 5, 2020.
He had been scheduled to fly early on January 5th but was pulled from his trip. On the 6th he attended a meeting with members of the JetBlue People Department. The Team Leader David Davis assured Clay that all he needed to do was provide proof of his Type II Diabetes diagnosis to back up his contention that he did indeed suffer a diabetic episode on January 4th.
Despite the allegations made by the Hyatt hotel staff Clay was never asked to submit to any alcohol or blood sugar testing before or after being taken into custody. I would think that if the police believed he was drunk that they would have tested him. Instead, they held him for a trespass charge initiated by the hotel, which was subsequently dismissed.
On or around February 13, 2020, Clay began an email correspondence with Wanda Garcia, JetBlue Crew Relations Field Generalist, to confirm his Type II Diabetes diagnosis. Please note that Garcia had also participated in the meeting where Clay reported anti-Semitism that was never addressed. Garcia requested a doctor's note to substantiate his diabetic claim, which Clay provided to JetBlue on February 24, 2020. The event was over. So he thought.
Clay flew during the months of January, February, and March. Then, on March 15, 2020, JetBlue notified Clay that he would be suspended without pay while an investigation was being conducted into the January 4, 2020 incident in Buffalo. JetBlue’s suspension letter promised a “full and fair investigation.”
However, on March 16, 2020 – just one day after being informed that the circumstances surrounding his suspension required a “full and fair investigation” and more than two months after the Buffalo incident, Clay was issued a letter of termination from JetBlue.
The Fastest Investigation Ever!
How long does it take to open an employee's file to see that the he has been pushing for nutrition and health reform, is now a diabetic, but also a trouble-maker because he reported anti-Semitic comments? That file closed and so did the investigation.
Why Did JetBlue Terminate Clay?
Clay is a 60-year-old, Jewish, heterosexual flight attendant who has done nothing wrong but made efforts for improvement. He is also a diabetic. Why did they really terminate Clay? Pick a reason, but it certainly wasn't for drinking on his layover. Their "less than 24-hour investigation" that began 3 months after the event doesn't cut it. He provided the medical documentation requested. There was no evidence he drank, and the Buffalo police didn't believe it or they would have tested his alcohol level.
Clay Kallman is now headed to court
with the list of charges against JetBlue:
- COUNT I Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Disparate Treatment
- COUNT II Violation of the New York State Human Rights Law Disparate Treatment Based on Disability
- COUNT III Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Failure to Accommodate.
- COUNT IV Violation of the New York State Human Rights Law Failure to Accommodate.
- COUNT V Violation of Title VII Religious Discrimination.
- COUNT VI Violation of the New York State Human Rights Law Religious Discrimination.
- COUNT VII Violation of Title VII Hostile Work Environment.
- COUNT VIII Violation of the New York State Human Rights Law Hostile Work Environment.
- COUNT IX Violation of Title VII Retaliation.
- COUNT X Violation of the New York State Human Rights Law Retaliation.
- COUNT XI Violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
- COUNT XII Violation of the New York State Human Rights Law Age Discrimination.
- COUNT XIII Violation of the New York State Human Rights Law Sexual Orientation Discrimination. (Heterosexual)
Why the Lawsuit?
Filing a lawsuit is not cheap---financially or emotionally. The employee will spend years financing a legal defense. The airline has unlimited resources and will do whatever it takes to hide the wrong doings of their executives. I wish there was a way for shareholders to know how much money airline management wastes defending indefensible behavior of management. The airline knows that many don't have the resources to sue. How can you stand up to injustice if your paycheck depends on survival, and the company just took that paycheck? I asked Clay his purpose for the lawsuit, and he said:
"My goal with this lawsuit is to make JetBlue airways stop being tyrannical in regards to their treatment of flight attendants. Many other flight attendants have been terminated unceremoniously, like me, but they didn’t have the resources to file a complaint."
Clay is suing for the right reason...
to make change for others.
When you do it for the right reasons
You don't give up!
What I don't understand is why JetBlue is willing to face the negative PR that this injustice will bring. I believe if the founder, David Neeleman, knew that this was ongoing it would have stopped before it began. I wrote a paper on Neeleman during my MBA. His story is fascinating. The only reason JetBlue is in business today, is because of Neeleman's character, integrity, and perseverance... which I believe to be similar to Clay's. I asked Clay what he would say to Neeleman:
"I’d tell Neeleman that his once proud airline has turned into a money grab for management, a power play for team leaders, and a hostile work environment for its crewmembers. He should keep his next airline private."
Clay's Current Plans
"My goal now is to do my own travel vlog with all the modern equipment and social media, while speaking out against abusive airlines. Airlines like Jetblue that do not offer proper nutrition, fitness opportunities, sleep, and support for pilots and flight attendants while on pairings. Then when these pilots and flight attendants need medical assistance, these airlines will always support their people and have trained medical personnel at all layover hotels, ready with proper nutrition at all times and do not terminate them for their illnesses."
If you want to reach out to Clay, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook by simply typing his name: Clay Kallman.
If you would like to reach out to his team leader, Lenda Reyes, you can email her at: Lenda.email@example.com. Clay tells me he believes the Wanda Garcia, the Director of the People Department, was behind his termination as retribution for making Whistleblower complaints and anti-semitic complaints. Please feel free to write to Wanda too. Wanda.firstname.lastname@example.org
Airlines count on employees to walk away.
But change will never happen if they do.