Saturday, January 11, 2003

Delta attendant feels vindicated



By Chris Mayhew
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - A day after a federal jury awarded her $770,000 in an age discrimination suit against Delta Air Lines, a 56-year-old Union woman described her feelings in one word.

Relief.

"They thought I would just go away, and for three years I just wouldn't go away," said Joyce Ziegler-Ellis, a Delta flight attendant for 27 years. She was based at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

Mrs. Ziegler-Ellis was terminated in July 1999 after she had used the airline's free flight policy five times.

A Delta spokeswoman said Friday that the airline planned to appeal. "We deny all allegations of unlawful conduct," said Kristi Tucker.

Mrs. Ziegler-Ellis went on sanctioned disability leave in November 1998 because of a herniated disc in her neck that she suffered when she was struck by a beverage and food cart during in-flight turbulence, she said.

Her attorney, Randy Freking of Freking & Betz, said flight privileges were available to attendants if they were on disability leave, according to Delta's In Flight Services Handbook. Many Delta employees referred to the handbook as "the bible," he said.

During the trial in District Court in Covington, Mr. Freking said he was able to show that other, younger Delta employees were simply warned by the company for traveling while on disability, but not fired.

Mr. Freking said Mrs. Ziegler-Ellis had a clean record with no warnings or citations during her career. Delta had a warning process in place, he said, which was not followed in the case of Mrs. Ziegler-Ellis. "She was getting closer to significant retirement benefits," he said.

""It was the hardest thing I've ever done, to sue a big company," said Mrs. Ziegler-Ellis.

E-mail cmayhew@enquirer.com




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