Kiersten Bak, who was just hired as a flight attendant by Delta in March, was fired last month for posts she made on her Facebook account. She “called out a man who had been trolling her” and her comments were reported to her employer, which was identified based on a profile picture she used in her uniform.
Bak has a side business selling feminist merchandise called “That F’ing Feminist.” Her business sells ““Suburban Housewives for Biden” T-shirts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg prayer candles, and masks emblazoned with “Just Put Your Damn Mask On, Karen.” ..[and] Black Lives Matter T-shirts.”
She shared a comment on her Facebook page she had received from someone on the internet, “You are one dumb woman” with the response:
“Imagine having the ego of a white man in America 🥺 🥺, (no idea who this guy is. just some random snowflake who messaged me and immediately blocked me so I couldn’t respond 😂).
She also started posting screenshots from her business page on her personal page, along with donations she was making to liberal causes. (“Bak has donated more than $8,000 to Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, the Biden campaign, and several progressive organizations.”)
She says she was called in by Delta managers for questioning, asked whether she was ‘racist’ towards white men, and about a photo she displayed of herself in uniform with her sweater partially unbuttoned, which she says was taken after a flight while she was no longer working.
She was also questioned, she says, about her Facebook posts about President Trump.
They also questioned her for a photo she shared of anti-Trump cookies her friend had decorated. Two of them depicted President Donald Trump as a pig and said “Make AmeriKKKa Great Again” in royal icing. The other two were decorated to look like umbrellas and read “Super Callous Fragile Racist Sexist Nazi POTUS.”
“They said, ‘What’s wrong with these cookies?’ And I said, ‘Well, nothing,’” Bak said. “She said, ‘How about the KKK bit?’ And I was like, I’m not saying, like, go join the KKK! … She pointed to the KKK bit, as if insinuating I was promoting the KKK. … These were anti-KKK cookies!”
According to Bak’s termination letter, she was fired for violating the company’s social media policy, making “insensitive and offensive posts.”
You stated your belief that your messages, and the messages Delta has indicated in support of Black Lives Matter, equality and social justice are the same, but you believe that you have been terminated for expressing such beliefs.
Ms. Bak, your termination was not based on your personal beliefs. Your termination was based on your violation of Delta’s Social Media Policy and the fact that the way you communicated your messages does not align with Delta Values and because you associated yourself with Delta when making the offensive comments.
Delta’s social media policy for employees prohibits “using hateful, racist or other discriminatory language or images, advocating violent or illegal acts, participating in hate groups or shaming others.”
According to Delta,
While personnel issues are considered private between Delta and its employees, the circumstances described by our former employee are not an accurate or complete explanation of the company’s termination decision.
Delta is a values-led company and our employees know and understand that they are representatives of our brand at work and through their conduct in social media and other public forums. When Delta employees intermix Delta’s brand with conduct or content that does not reflect our values of professionalism, inclusion and respect, that conduct can result in discipline or termination.
The interwebs seem to be solidly on Kiersten’s side.
@delta as a college educated white male I am not offended nor disenfranchised in any way Kiersten's response to a troll. It looks to me like you've been looking for a reason. I will be looking for another airline. #kierstenbak
— Crazy Pipette Biker (@ScienceDave1265) November 26, 2020
Did i really read @Delta corporate allowed one of their sites to fire #KierstenBak because she stands up for race and gender rights even as white men who have no interest in her items message her nonsense in her off hours!
Delta is okay with this strong women hating image?
— Leigh Alexandra (@paintingkillers) November 26, 2020
Delta Airlines apparently fired Kiersten Bak #kierstenbak for defending herself and her side company from a troll. I read the accounts and as a middle aged white male, you suck @delta. You may want to rethink your decision and your BS white male attitude and privilege. #snowflake
— Jim Dagata (@dagata63) November 26, 2020
@kierstenbak saw the article on buzzfeed. I’m white guy with a family. Sounds like Delta is the problem. How can I help? Got a go fund me page or something?
— Brian Wharton (@WhartonBigD) November 26, 2020
Idk… but if you the same woman that got fired from Delta for speaking out against racism, then I have mad respect for you!!!!!
— Kolione (@Kol1one) November 26, 2020
Very disappointing Delta. Christians would never tolerate being fired for their beliefs or for sharing their beliefs while not at work. These are Kiersten’s religious beliefs. #kierstenbak
Also, Delta didn’t know what a snowflake is?!?
— Raven Alder (@alder_raven) November 26, 2020
Kiersten Bak. Say her name. It’s why I won’t be renewing my Delta Airlines American Express card next year. You know — the one that costs $500 or more per year?
— rylie is a bad girl (@RylieBad) November 26, 2020
This case is reminiscent of another Delta flight attendant fired for activity in social media, that helped spark real conversations about what kind of activity is permissible online and where the boundaries are beyond personal and work.
Ellen Simonetti started her “Queen of Sky” blog, the ‘diary of a dysfunctional flight attendant’ in 2003. The next year she posted photos of herself posing in uniform on a Delta aircraft. She never identified her employer, but the uniform and interior implied the Atlanta-based carrier. And the photos were considered provocative, with her skirt hiked up in one photo and her blouse partially unbottoned in another.
Credit: Ellen Simonetti
Was her blog private and separate from her employment? It may seem obvious now that appearing in uniform on company property implicates employment, and companies are concerned with their image online (even if this hardly did anything to tarnish Delta’s brand). At the time though we were that far removed from mass adoption of the internet and an anything goes culture online that pervaded its early years.
Employers frequently offer clearer standards to employees than they used to, putting them on notice that their online activities can be subject to discipline, and employees may have greater care in separating their work and personal lives online. And of course 16 years ago we didn’t have the same cancel culture we do today, where personal behaviors are documented and companies and others called on to sever ties with people who behave badly.