Delta Air Lines Flight Attendant Fired For Calling Out A Troll On Social Media

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.

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. America – get it together!

    Is it really so hard not to be a nut?! Don’t be a Q-Anon, gun fetishist, anti-science crazy, and yes – also don’t be a BLM-is-my-new-religion-and-can-do-no-wrong, everything-is-racism, hate-America-first, terrorism-appeaser either.

    It’s not that hard.

    Not an American, but rooting for it and (all!) its people.

  2. When you clearly identify yourself as an employee (i.e. representative) of a brand and simultaneously “share” your personal/political/religious beliefs (no matter which side of the aisle you’re on) you’re asking for trouble. I am not an employee of Delta so I can’t say for sure l; however, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to imagine that this is pretty clearly spelled out in the FA’s employment contract.

  3. She’s one of those people who uses her political/social opinions as the cornerstone of her entire personality and doesn’t know when to shutup about it. Right, left, or wherever, these people are incredibly exhausting to be around. Delta made the right choice letting her go, I wouldn’t want to employ someone like that either.

  4. If you are vocal (regardless of political leanings) and associate yourself with your airline employer (ie having a public photo in uniform) and choose to engage online you are going to eventually run afoul of the social media policies ! Same as any airline.

  5. ::Shrug::She was a new employee and already causing Delta a headache. No problem with her being fired, because she seems to lack even basic commonsense.

  6. The teller at the major bank I use posts biblical sayings next to the FDIC sign and her name plate.
    If I post this on social media and claim she’s an anti-semite, do I get fired as a customer or does she get fired for foisting her religion on everyone who banks there?

    Can I be fired for a photo of me offering two LDS door-to-door “salesmen” a bottle of whiskey?

    The World is so confusing so I don’t have social media. I do, however, have anti-social media

  7. Social media is toxic (penis). I like Biden but trump is right. We need to close down the social networking services. I yearn for the days we had aol instant messenger and just chatted with real friends 1:1.

  8. Sounds like Kirsten got the notoriety she craved.

    Now she can stay home, go online, and Delta passengers don’t have to deal with her.

    Bravo.

  9. This woman’s beliefs and her side hustle are her own business. Promoting those same while clearly on the property of her employer are her employer’s business.
    With COVID-19 slamming the entire travel industry it was the correct move for Delta to cull this unnecessary employee. With massive layoffs now is not the time to be an imbecile with one’s social
    media presence.

  10. As the great American philosopher Charles Barkley once said “the Internet- where fools go to feel important”

  11. Only could have happened to an employee at Delta Airlines. A flight attendant at any other US carrier, this would never have happened. Simple reason, all the other carriers have unions. Some one mentioned “contract”. Delta flight attendants do not have a “contract”. They are hire at will, fire at will employees. Bak may have a wrongful termination case. All she has to prove is that Delta was being vindictive because she is pro-union.

  12. Political correctness and racism are two way streets. By all means you can push your racist opinions on your own platforms but once you include your employer (regardless if intentional or not) there are consequences for your actions. I work for government agency and we have a very strict social media policy. If I posted the racially charged comments that I saw in this article I know I would be disciplined.

  13. @ JohnB

    I work for an airline and have a union however breaking the social media policies of my airline is still the quickest way to get fired, union or not!

  14. Is Kiersten the Left’s version of Karen?

    Sitting on top of passengers’s seats is not hygienic.

    She is just another self-obsessed ex-employee…good riddance.

  15. Two things…

    First, you’re only hearing from Ms. Bak’s side of things. Delta won’t publicly comment for fear of violating work privacy law and rules, so Ms. Bak is free to say whatever she wants about how Delta has handled things. Delata is constrained by privacy issues and will and must remain silent. Therefore, Ms. Bak can present a slanted version of events that Delta is unable to refute.

    Second, Delta and other companies tend to have strict rules about using corporate branding in their social media posts. If Ms. Bak appeared in Delta uniform then that was an obvious violation right there. If she committed some rude or offensive speech by whatever definition while doing so, then that was an even clearer violation. Its really simple – don’t complain when you get busted wearing company branding and someone complains. Cancel culture works both ways, as the Left is now beginning to realize. They thought the Golden Rule didn’t apply to them. They thought wrong.

    Personally, I think Ms. Bak should have been disciplined though not fired for her conduct. Termination seems a bit over the top. However, she also seems to have violated company policy by posting pictures of herself in her Delta uniform. As a result, she can whine and complain, but Delta likely has very firm legal legs to stand on here. .

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