A former Delta Air Lines flight attendant’s legal bid to sue the airline for claimed sexual assault by a pilot during a layover was unsuccessful.
Sara Caruso filed a complaint alleging sex discrimination, handicap discrimination, and retaliation against the Atlanta-based airline, but her claim was dismissed by a District Court judge last week.
Caruso alleges she was sexually assaulted by a Delta First Officer during a normal overnight layover in Dallas, Texas, in August 2018, and that the airline’s handling of the situation resulted in her constructive dismissal. She has already filed an appeal with the First Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.
Before returning to their layover home, Caruso went out for dinner and drinks with the pilot and two other coworkers.
Caruso had no recollection of what happened after they returned to the hotel, but according to the pilot’s evidence, she was “under the effect” of alcohol at this point.
Caruso and the pilot returned to her room and participated in a variety of sexual actions before the pilot went back to his own room to get a condom. However, when he returned to Caruso’s room, he allegedly discovered her sitting in the shower, violently sick.
Before returning to his own room, the pilot claims to have assisted Caruso to her bed. They never had intercourse, he claims.
The next day, Caruso failed to show up for the airport shuttle on time, and coworkers had to assist her in getting ready and onto the bus. A Delta manager gave Caruso a breathalyzer test upon her arrival at the airport, which she failed.
She returned to her base in Boston and was assigned to Delta’s Employee Assistance Program.
Caruso claims she went to the Emergency Room the same day for a sexual assault examination. She claims she immediately informed Delta of the pilot’s sexual assault, but the airline claims it was not informed until months afterwards.
Delta was aware, however, that Caruso had made a sexual assault complaint, and the airline launched an internal inquiry, interviewing her fellow passengers and attempting to get key card entry logs from the layover hotel.
The hotel first refused to give the required information because Caruso had not yet filed a police report, which she did not do until she had completed a Delta-arranged 30-day inpatient alcohol treatment program.
Delta approved Caruso’s request for a medical leave of absence after he completed the program.
Detectives sought to retrieve video surveillance footage from the hotel after Caruso filed a police report, but it had already been wiped. Delta was served with a charge of discrimination that had been filed with state authorities a few months later.
This was the first time the airline had been informed that the pilot was the accused assailant, according to Delta.
The pilot was subsequently interviewed, but due to a lack of evidence, both Delta and the Dallas Police Department ended their investigations. The pilot was allowed to continue flying, and Caruso requested that because she had been diagnosed with PTSD, she be accommodated such that she would never be at the same layover hotel as the pilot.
Delta argues its seniority-based bidding structure prevents them from honoring that request. Instead, Caruso would have to make sure she wasn’t bidding on the same plane that the pilot flew.
Caruso returned to work in June 2019, but only lasted a month before claiming constructive discharge from Delta.
The sex discrimination suit was based on the fact that the pilot was Caruso’s “boss,” and thus Delta was liable for his behavior. The District Judge, on the other hand, found that the pilot did not supervise Caruso and that Delta was not negligent in its handling of the matter.