JetBlue worker's homeless Halloween costume upsets Puerto Rican community

"For this JetBlue employee to think it’s OK to joke about the epidemic of homelessness in Puerto Rico and the U.S. is sickening," one person wrote.

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By Gwen Aviles

A JetBlue employee is being hammered on social media for showing up to work on Halloween dressed up as a homeless person from the Caribbean.

Clad in a stained white shirt and ripped pants, the unidentified employee put black makeup on her teeth, to make them appear rotten, and carried a cardboard sign that read: “Homeless. Need help trying to get back to Puerto Rico or Cuba.”

“This was the costume of a JetBlue employee at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, FL,” a Twitter user who goes by the handle @nats, wrote Thursday alongside a picture of the employee behind the JetBlue kiosk at Fort-Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport. “I want to read your opinions.”

“A @JetBlue employee in the Fort Lauderdale airport showed up to work in this racist and highly offensive ‘costume.’ People’s hardship and suffering should not be mocked like this,” wrote one Twitter user. “The company should have accountability for all their workers. UNACCEPTABLE!”

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Others said that the costume mocked survivors of Hurricane Maria, the deadliest national disaster in the United States in 100 years. Housing has become an even more pressing issue on the island after the 2017 storm because of lack of federal emergency aid.

“Not sure if they know but thousands of people lost everything due to Hurricane Maria and for this JetBlue employee to think it’s OK to joke about the epidemic of homelessness in Puerto Rico and the U.S. is sickening and completely unacceptable,” wrote another user. “That’s NO JOKE.”

JetBlue apologized in an email to NBC News, but has not responded to the tweet.

“In the spirit of Halloween, our crewmembers are welcome to celebrate in costume, but one crewmember chose a costume that was clearly insensitive and not in line with our costume policy,” said Derek Dombrowski, manager of corporate communications at JetBlue. “The situation was immediately addressed, and we apologize to anyone who was offended.”

Though JetBlue did not provide NBC News with its formal costume policy, which outlines appropriate Halloween clothing for employees, Dombrowski said that "any costume that could be offensive to staff and customers is not allowed." As for how the incident was "immediately addressed," the airline declined to comment further.

JetBlue is the largest airline carrier in Puerto Rico, with more than 50 daily departures from San Juan. One-third of its routes include places in the Caribbean and Latin America.

The city of Fort Lauderdale, where the airport is, is nearly 20 percent Latino, according to census data. The number of Latinos who inhabit the city is only growing as many Puerto Ricans left the island for Florida cities, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Orlando, after Hurricane Maria.

“They need to fire her a-- and I demand a public apology from JetBlue for their employee’s costume because as a Puerto Rican, I find it highly offensive and I personally won’t be flying JetBlue until they issue a public apology to all,” another person wrote

Earlier this week, a couple came under fire after posting a picture dressed as an ICE agent and a detained immigrant in handcuffs.

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