CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CN) – A former Piedmont Airlines employee claims she was wrongly demoted and accused of being a racist after her coworkers learned of critical statements she made on Facebook about the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a federal complaint filed in Charlotte on July 26, Victoria Squitieri says she was hired as a part-time customer service ramp agent by the airline in 2008, and was later promoted to a full-time position and transferred from her original post in New York to Piedmont’s hub in North Carolina.
Six months, Squitieri says, she was promoted again, to a supervisory position.
Squitieri, who is white, says at least since 2016 she maintained a private Facebook account set on private so that her posts would only be seen by her Facebook friends.
According to the complaint, in July 2016, she wrote a post on Facebook that discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and her respect for law enforcement.
“I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters-in- law that are law enforcement,” she wrote. “I don’t want to see any more of your bullshit posts about cops! There’s good an [sic] there’s bad — when you need them they come and you’re damn glad! I don’t care what color you are — stop jumping the bandwagon! Very simply – don’t put yourself at the end of a cops [sic] gun! You’re black so what, I don’t give a shit – don’t mean ya [sic] can run your mouth and get on your soap box just because you share skin color! Shut up already!”
Squitieri says her post inspired further discussion among her friends.
She then posted: “All lives matter. Period. I will not be preached to. I never said Black lives dont [sic] matter. I believe Black lives matter is stoking the fire of racial tension and hate by exploiting deaths and encouraging division. Period. Look again at my words and do not put words in my mouth.”
Squitieri says shortly after she posted those comments, her black co-workers began to treat her differently, harassing her, calling her a racist and making racially-harassing comments about her.
“Defendants Barden, Williams, Prophete, Baldwin, and Butler maliciously posted false, misleading statements regarding Squitieri’s Facebook posts on (1) the CWA Local 3645 Facebook Page, (2) the CLT Eagle Swap Facebook Page, (3) and a locked glass case in the kitchen of the Airline Baggage Runner Trailer,” the complaint says. “Upon information and belief, business associates of Squitieri living as far away as Indiana and Florida read the false, online portrayals of Squitieri.”
Squitieri says she emailed a superior, to complain that she was being harassed, but his response was to demote her all the way back to being a part-time ramp agent to punish her for her “insensitive behavior.”
“Specifically, [the supervisor] explained that Squitieri had acted insensitively towards the African-American agents she supervised when she posted comments regarding Black Lives Matter and law enforcement on her private Facebook page. Taylor did not mention Squitieiri’s performance or poor management as justification for Squitieri’s demotion,” the complaint states.
Squitieri seeks compensatory and punitive damages, back pay and benefits on claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; discriminatory disparate treatment due to race; wrongful demotion due to race; discrimination and harassment on the basis of race; defamation and libel.
She is represented by Michael Harman of Huntersville, North Carolina.
Piedmont Airlines, formerly US Airways Express, is headquartered in Maryland and operates regional flights. The airline company is a subsidiary of American Airlines Group, Inc.
A spokesperson for the airline said, “American does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. We are not able to discuss the specifics of this matter as it now involves litigation.”