American Airlines Flight Attendant Accused Of Bringing Rat To Work

Louann Giambattista was long known by co-workers for her love of pets. And in many offices, bringing your pet to work is gaining acceptance. But the flight attendant at American Airlines -- who owns a dog, gerbils and hamsters -- saw her reputation take a nosedive when three colleagues claimed to have seen her sneak her pet rat onto a plane and feed him dinner rolls. That's not even the most disturbing part of their story, either.

The colleagues accused her of hiding the animal, named "Willard," in her pantyhose, according to a lawsuit Giambattista filed against the airline. Two fellow flight attendants, Connie Bolt and Dora Sterling, "began targeting Ms. Giambattista under the perceived notion that Ms. Giambattista had a mental disability because she was unable to to be away from her pet rats for any time period," Giambattista's complaint asserts.

Giambattista denied their claims, but because her colleagues notified the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Giambattista is now subject to inspections by federal agents every time she flies internationally, the lawsuit claims. She is claiming "debilitating anxiety" and post-traumatic stress disorder and is seeking unspecified damages.

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"She's not a nut. They're making her out to be a nut," he attorney, Stephen Morelli, told the New York Post, which was the first to report on her suit. "She has her pets at home, not at work," he also said. In the complaint, the charges were characterized as "absurd" and "patently false and physically impossible."

The incident involving the rat was alleged to have taken place last February, when Giambattista was working a flight from St. Martin to Miami. Her complaint says she was immediately questioned by a US ICE agent when she got off the plane, which led to the increased scrutiny over her flights. Her complaint adds she was even threatened she would potentially have to undergo a strip search.

Yet the treatment is not so different what everyday travellers have to endure, as a post on on points out. "T
hat's what we have to do every time we fly," the news site wrote. Nevertheless, she says the special attention for the stewardess made "it nearly impossible" for her to report to work.

American Airlines has said it will reply to the charges in court.

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