A former Delta Air Lines flight attendant who says she was fired weeks after she posted photos of herself in uniform on her Internet blog has filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the airline.
Ellen Simonetti, whose job was based in Atlanta but lives in Austin, Texas, filed the lawsuit on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, saying that male colleagues with potentially insensitive material on their blogs have gone unpunished.
The case could plow fresh legal ground on whether a company can take action against an employee for operating a blog. Simonetti was featured in a recent People magazine article that mentioned workers who were fired for blog content.
No male Delta employees with blogs have been disciplined, according to the lawsuit.
"The main difference between Ellen and them is chromosomal," said her lawyer, Kevin Fitzpatrick.
Simonetti is requesting unspecified monetary damages plus reinstatement to her job. She was suspended last September without pay and dismissed a month later.
Her blog, dubbed "Diary of a Flight Attendant," at http://www.queenofsky.net, contains personal life stories and world views. But it was an assortment of "inappropriate photos" that angered the airline, according to the lawsuit.
One photo shows the 30-year-old with her Delta uniform blouse partly unbuttoned, exposing a glimpse of her bra. In another, she is stretched across a row of plane seats, with her skirt somewhat hiked.
None of them "rise to the level of a PG rating for a movie," Fitzpatrick said.
A Delta spokesman said the airline refrains from commenting on pending litigation.
Fitzpatrick said that Delta's employee behavior rules make no mention of Internet activity. He and Simonetti contend she was fired as a warning to other airline workers with blogs.
Simonetti said she launched the blog partly as therapy to cope with the death of her mother. A day before a scheduled departure to Rome last September, she said, Delta deactivated her.
"I was just in shock. I asked why they didn't give me a warning. They said, 'This is your warning being suspended.' ... They intimidated and harassed me."
She submitted a sex discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC elected not to sue Delta directly but issued a "right to sue letter."
Her lawsuit also claims Delta sought retribution for her involvement in a drive to unionize flight attendants. The company's attendants ultimately voted against joining a union.
Simonetti said she has been unable to find work with another airline. A University of Texas graduate, she plans to write a book on her experiences and enroll in culinary school.
Any attention generated by the dispute, she said, has been mostly unwanted.
"I've gotten stalker-type e-mail and phone calls. I have to screen my calls. It's been pretty much all negative."