Delta employees sue Lands' End alleging new uniforms made them sick

The uniforms debuted on May 29, 2018, and are worn by about 64,000 Delta employees, according to the lawsuit.
A flight attendant wearing the in-flight service exclusive dress for Delta.
A flight attendant wearing the in-flight service exclusive dress for Delta.Delta

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By Janelle Griffith

Delta Air Lines workers have filed a class-action lawsuit against Lands' End, alleging that uniforms from the clothing manufacturer and retailer are making the airline's employees sick.

Lands’ End, which is based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, manufactured the new uniforms. The lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Wisconsin Court on behalf of 525 Delta employees, at least 90 percent of whom are flight attendants, according to Bruce Maxwell, one of the attorneys bringing the case.

The uniforms debuted May 29, 2018, and are worn by about 64,000 Delta employees, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that several Delta employees, who work in various capacities, including flight attendants, ramp and gate agents and in customer service, suffered severe respiratory illnesses, rashes, blisters, boils, hair loss, hives, sinus problems, headaches, fatigue, nosebleeds and anxiety, among other health issues.

“This issue is real. It affects different people in different ways, and the reactions can vary in severity with symptoms such as rashes, headaches, hair loss and breathing problems when wearing the uniform to becoming so sensitized to the chemicals that it's impossible to even be in the same space without getting extremely sick," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants across 20 airlines.

Maxwell, the lead attorney in the case, said that a closed Facebook page devoted to the uniform issue has registered more than 6,000 people.

"These uniforms are very hazardous to the affected workers," Maxwell said. "Unfortunately, once exposed to a certain degree, these workers are sensitized to the particular heavy metals and/or chemicals involved and become proximity reactors which basically means that merely being in close to the offending uniform will cause a set off of the adverse reactions, the various symptoms listed in the complaint."

The uniforms include dresses, skirts, shirts, blouses, sweaters, jackets and pants, and the materials are described in the lawsuit as "high stretch, wrinkle and stain-resistant, waterproof, anti-static and deodorizing." The plaintiffs claim chemical additives and finishes used to achieve those characteristics are causing allergic reactions.

"The combination of these additives and finishes has an allergic and sensitizing effect on the human body, even if those several additives and finishes are relatively safe in their individual respective quantities," the lawsuit states.

In a statement to NBC News, Delta said it's committed to keeping its employees safe.

"Our top priority continues to be the safety of our employees, which is why we invested in a rigorous toxicology study to determine if there was a universal scientific issue with the uniform. The results of the study confirm our uniforms meet the highest textile standards - OEKO-TEX - with the exception of the optional flight attendant apron, which we removed from the collection," the airline said in its statement Friday night.

Lands' End said it does not comment on pending litigation.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for personal injuries, pain and suffering, as well as for emotional, financial and economic loss and distress. The plaintiffs also want Lands’ End to recall the uniforms.