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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Hate Crimes and Aviation

Do They Deserve to be Terminated?

My goal is to attend Law School and pass the bar prior to my retirement in May 2027 so I can legally help those in need. With that said, I find the law interesting, often unbalanced, and I have become intimately aware of the many ways airline management attempt to get rid of employees. The following case appears to be one of those unjustified terminations. 

Three women were terminated in June for "hate-related behavior." The question is... was this justified?

You be the judge...
Was the language due to hate?


Envoy Air Terminates African-American and 
Two Pacific Islanders 
for reference to Jackie Chan Movie

In a letter to Envoy Air management dated August 25, 2021, New York attorney Lee Seham takes the carrier to task for terminating three employees for referring to the themselves as "slaves" and quoting a line from the Jackie Chan movie Rush Hour as a means of explaining that the reference was not intended to the offend others. The three employees - Losaolima Fonokalafi, Faye Tuala, and Asefash Asfaha - each have over twenty (20) year of seniority. They are, respectively, immigrants from Tonga, Samoa, and Eritrea (Africa) and were employed by Envoy as Inventory Control Specialists. 

Envoy found cause to terminate Ms. Fonokalafi because, in response to a comment by an aircraft mechanic that she was working too hard, she agreed that she and her co-worker's worked like "slaves." 

The following week, a white co-worker confronted Ms. Fonokalafi about her comment and asserted that "Black lives matter." Ms. Asfaha - an African-American born in Eritrea - came to her colleague's defense by explaining that Ms. Fonokalafi was from Tonga and had a different life experience from her white accuser. Ms. Asfaha compared her colleague to the innocent Chinese police detective in a hit movie who inadvertently made an offensive remark in a bar patronized exclusively African-Americans, and appealed to Ms. Tuala for help in recalling the movie and the scene. Ms. Tuala supplied the movie name and relevant quote to assist Ms. Asfaha in explaining Ms. Fonokalafi's innocence. 

Envoy terminated Ms. Fonokalafi and Ms. Tuala for allegedly making an improper "slave" reference and  because they "quoted movie lines" that were offensive. Envoy terminated Ms. Asfaha for she allegedly quoting the same movie lines. 

Mr. Seham's August 25 letter provided Envoy with precedent from the National Labor Relations Board  hold an employee has a right under federal labor law to articulate complaints concerning her working conditions using such language. He also argued: 

Every race has been enslaved and has enslaved others. Our republic's first international conflict was in response to African pirates who had enslaved over a million European and white American sailors. In the English language, the term "working like a slave" is a common idiomatic expression meaning nothing more than the individual is working hard for a paltry compensation. 

Seham further argued that terminating life-long employees for a reference to a popular movie that grossed over $245 million worldwide could not be justified, particularly when the purpose of the reference was not to offend, but to promote understanding. Moreover, the only African-American present at the time was Ms. Asfaha, whom Envoy terminated. 

On August 30, Envoy responded to Mr. Seham that it was "working on collecting data for this case..." 


After reading the press-release, it appears that the hate related behavior could be owned by Envoy management for an unreasonable termination of three employees. Could these three women have been terminated because of a white woman's hate towards them? Perhaps the white woman doesn't like hardworking women of other cultures, is angry at Black Lives Matter, and she simply used this event to have these senior women removed. These women could have been targeted because of their culture and their ethnicity. If Enjoy management is gathering data in August regarding a June termination perhaps they jumped the gun. 

Nothing is black and white and interpretation and common sense must prevail. The Airbus A350 manual refers the computer systems as the "master" and the "slave". To put this into perspective, imagine an African American pilot who is forced to read that language in his manual, is required to take a test and respond in that same language, and yet he could be terminated because he comments to a coworker that he he's working like a slave.  The airline is exempt from the language in the manual. Airbus is exempt from the language in the manual. But employees are terminated for the same language. 

I wish these women the best of luck in their case. I know that they have an excellent attorney representing them. Lee Seham cares about people, about justice, is an expert in the law, and I've witnessed him take on multimillion dollar law firm and win. If you need help saving your career, start by contacting Seham, Seham, Meltz and Peterson and ask for Lee. 

Read the termination letter at: eTurboNews

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene

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