Former Delta employees claim they were fired for speaking Korean

Four former Delta employees who were allegedly told by a manager not to speak Korean because it made other workers feel uncomfortable are accusing the airline in a lawsuit of discrimination after they were fired last year.

The employees — Ji-Won Kim, Lilian Park, Jean Yi and Jongjin An — were Delta customer service agents at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport who say they were reprimanded for speaking Korean, even though they were assigned to work flights to South Korea, according to their suit.

"Many other employees frequently spoke to each other in their native languages during their shifts and were not admonished or coached not to do so," read the suit, which was filed May 31. The women began speaking publicly about the case this week.

RELATED: 20 best airlines in the world

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20. Hong Kong Airlines

Previous rank: 24

Why it's awesome: Hong Kong Airlines has been on an impressive growth streak over the past couple of years. Not only has it rapidly expanded its global network, the carrier has also worked to improve service and product. Hong Kong Airlines is a subsidiary of China's HNA Group.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)

19. KLM

Previous rank: 22

Why it's awesome: Royal Dutch KLM is considered the oldest continuously operating airline in the world. Based out of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, KLM is famous for its bright blue livery and Dutch house liquor bottle figurines. The airline is one half of the Franco-Dutch conglomerate Air France-KLM.

KLM also took home the prize for Best Business Class Seat in Europe.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(REUTERS/Regis Duvignau)

18. Turkish Airlines

Previous rank: 12

Why it's awesome: Turkish Airlines is the flag carrier of Turkey and has its main hub at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. The airline, with its ability to fly to over 100 countries and over 200 cities worldwide, hopes to turn its home base into a global transit hub.

Even though political unrest and security concerns have made life more complicated for Turkish Airlines, the carrier's high-quality service, and product offerings remain unchanged.

Turkish is a member of Star Alliance and had won the Skytrax award for Best Airline in Europe six years in a row before losing the title to Lufthansa last year.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo by Vladimir Shtanko/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

17. Air New Zealand

Previous rank: 19

Why it's awesome: In 2018, Air New Zealand reclaimed the titles of World's Best Premium Economy Class and World's Best Premium Economy Seat from Aussie rival Qantas, the Kiwi carrier remains one of the industry's finest long-haul carriers.

In economy class, families can opt for the airlines innovative Skycouch that transforms a bank of three economy seats into a flat activity area.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

16. Austrian Airlines

Previous rank: 17

Why it's awesome: Austrian Airlines has overcome a series of labor disputes in recent years, with its high level of service intact. In 2018, the Lufthansa-owned carrier, once again, took home the prize for Best Airline Staff Service in Europe. The Austrian flag carrier boasts a fleet of newly renovated long-haul Boeing 767-300ER and 777-200 jets flying out of its base in Vienna.

Economy fliers gave the Star Alliance member high marks for its efficient and effective service, as well as for the wealth of onboard dining and entertainment options.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader)

15. Etihad Airways

Previous rank: 8

Why it's awesome: Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, is the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, with its Airbus and Boeing fleet traveling to about 100 destinations. The airline has become famous for its trademark Residence flying apartments as well as its plush first-class and business-class suites.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Natalie Naccache/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

14. China Southern Airways

Previous rank: 23

Why it's awesome: Even though Air China and China Eastern may get more attention, China Southern is actually the largest airline in the Middle Kingdom.

The Guangzhou-based airline also won the award for Most Improved Airline, Best First Class in China, and Best First Class Lounge in China.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

13. Japan Airlines

Previous rank: 16

Why it's awesome: Japan's flag carrier is one of the most respected airlines in the world. Reviewers on Skytrax praised Japan's second-largest airline for its attentive service, well-coordinated ground staff, and comfortable cabin.

For 2018, Japan Airlines once again won the award for Best Economy Class Airline Seat.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo credit should read TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

12. Swiss International Air Lines

Previous rank: 14

Why it's awesome: Swiss International Air Lines emerged in 2002 from the remnants of the now defunct Swissair and is now a member of the Lufthansa corporate family. In 2016, the Basel-based carrier became the first in the world to operate the next generation Bombardier C-Series airliner.

Though some fliers found economy seat comfort to be lacking, most praised the cabin crew for its friendly service and the airline for its wide assortment of complimentary adult beverages.

Plus, the complimentary Swiss chocolate is always a fan favorite.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann)

11. Qantas

Previous rank: 15

Why it's awesome: Even with strong competition from Virgin Australia, Qantas has been resurgent over the past couple of years. The airline received praise for its strong customer service and in-flight entertainment. And then there's Qantas' calling card — it has a fatality-free safety record in the jet era.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

10. Thai Airways

Previous rank: 11

Why it's awesome: Thai Airways has long been an industry leader for quality service, so it's no surprise to find the Thai national carrier high up on the list. Though its most heralded products are its business and first-class services, fliers found its economy seats to be of high quality as well.

Economy fliers on Skytrax also noted the crew's friendly demeanor and delectable dining options.

In 2018, Thai Airways once again took home the award for the World's Best Economy Class, the World's Best Economy Class Onboard Catering, and the World's Best Airline Spa Facilities.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo by C. V. Grinsven/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

9. Garuda Indonesia

Previous rank: 10

Why it's awesome: Garuda Indonesia has experienced a dramatic turnaround in recent years. The Indonesia flag carrier has undertaken extensive fleet renewal and service improvement measures to regain the trust of both fliers and safety regulators.

Economy fliers have raved about the airline's comfortable seats and selection of Southeast Asian cuisine.

In 2018, Garuda's flight attendants took home the award for the World's Best Cabin Crew for the third year in a row.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

8. Hainan Airlines

Previous rank: 9

Why it's awesome: Founded in 1993, Hainan is the only Chinese airline to hold the coveted Skytrax five-star rating. In four short years, the airline surged from 22nd place all the way into the top 10. With a brand-new fleet of more than 160 Boeing and Airbus jets, Hainan is expanding rapidly throughout Asia, Europe, and Australia.

Reviewers on Skytrax praised the airline for its attentive service and quality business class accommodations.

Hainan also won the awards for Best Airline in China and Best Airline Cabin Crew in China.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(REUTERS/Stringer)

7. Lufthansa

Previous rank: 7

Why it's awesome: Europe's largest airline has surged into the top 10 over the past couple of years. Customers have praised Lufthansa for its exceptional service and overall product quality.

For the most part, Lufthansa's long-haul service is good, but, for the best results, it would be wise to aim for the fleet's newer A380 superjumbos and 748-8 Intercontinental jumbo jets.

In addition to a top-10 finish, the German national airline also took home the prize for Best Airline in Europe and Best Business Class in Europe.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach)

6. Cathay Pacific Airways

Previous rank: 5

Why it's awesome: Although Cathay Pacific, based in Hong Kong, fell back one spot from last year, the airline still retains its place as one of the most respected carriers from the Pacific rim. With a fleet of long-range Boeing 777-300ER jets and a business strategy centered on offering a high frequency of flights, Cathay is one of the finest flying experiences in Asia.

Skytrax reviewers gave the airline high marks for seat comfort, service quality, and in-flight entertainment.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

5. EVA Air

Previous rank: 6

Why it's awesome: Taiwan's EVA Air (pronounced ee-vee-ay) was founded in 1989 and is an offshoot of global container-shipping giant Evergreen Group. The Taipei-based carrier has grown immensely in the past two decades and now operates a large fleet of Airbus and Boeing wide-body jets. The airline is credited with pioneering the "premium economy" cabin.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

4. Emirates

Previous rank: 4

Why it's awesome: Over the past 30 years, Dubai's Emirates has developed into one of the world's premier long-haul carriers. Operating almost exclusively through its palatial hub at Dubai International Airport, the carrier boasts the world's largest fleet of Airbus A380 superjumbos and Boeing 777 wide-body jets.

Emirates' state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment system includes a wide selection of video and music options on demand, and even allows for live television and sporting events on its "ice" entertainment system-equipped aircraft. In fact, Emirates has taken home Skytrax's award for Best In-Flight Entertainment 14 years running.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Natalie Naccache/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

3. All Nippon Airways (ANA)

Previous rank: 3

Why it's awesome: All Nippon Airways continues its march towards the top of the rankings. ANA is the largest international carrier in Japan and home to one of the world's largest fleets of Boeing 787 Dreamliners. ANA drew high praise from Skytrax reviewers across the board for cleanliness, service, and safety. Many of its planes feature slide-forward-style reclining seats that increase overall privacy, as well as power and USB outlets even in economy.

ANA also won Best Airline Staff in Asia and Best Cabin Crew in Japan.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

2. Qatar Airways

Previous rank: 1

Why it's awesome: Qatar Airways falls back one spot to second.

The Doha-based airline received praise from reviewers for its seat comfort and in-flight entertainment. In fact, the airline boasts the second best in-flight entertainment system and economy class offering in the world The airline links over 150 destinations across the globe and is expanding its fleet to include the latest generation of long-haul airliners including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350.

Qatar also took home the award for Best Airline in the Middle East, World's Best Business Class, and Best First Class Airline Lounge.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Photo by Marina Lystseva\TASS via Getty Images)

1. Singapore Airlines

Previous rank: 2

Why it's awesome: Singapore's standout service makes for a famously pleasant journey during which flight attendants are trained to treat customers with extreme care and respect. Personal TVs with plenty of entertainment options and hot towels served before take-off are just some of the economy perks.

The airline's home base at Changi International Airport is one of the finest facilities in the world and has been named by Skytrax as the Best Airport in the World five years in a row.

The airline also took home the awards for Best Airline in Asia, World's Best First Class, and World's Best First Class Airline Seat.

See additional airline information at Skytrax.

(Nicky Loh/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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The complaint says the women were told they were being fired in May 2017 for allegedly offering unauthorized upgrades to customers, which the women said was standard practice.

The lawsuit, initially filed in state court in Seattle but moved to federal court on Delta's request, also claimed the women were sexually harassed by another customer service agent and were retaliated against after complaining about it. The suit also said the harassment continued after two of the women reported it to Delta leadership.

The women's lawyer, Jennifer T. Song, said her clients want "a recognition that they were wrongly terminated," as well as unspecified damages for economic and emotional distress and back pay.

Delta, through a spokesperson, said that while it does not tolerate workplace discrimination or harassment of any kind, it had looked into the women's allegations and found no violations.

"We take allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination very seriously, and our investigations into allegations made by these former employees were found to be without merit," the airline said in an email. "These former employees were unfortunately but appropriately terminated because the company determined they violated ticketing and fare rules. Delta is confident that these claims will ultimately be determined to be without merit."

The lawsuit also claimed that the four women — all of whom were born in Korea and immigrated to the U.S. — were never offered additional pay to make announcements in Korean, while Delta employees of other national origins who spoke other languages received this benefit.

RELATED: 9 best airlines in America

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9. Hawaiian Airlines

Previous rank: 8

Why it's here: Hawaiian finished last on the TPG list. The Honolulu-based airline's premium ticket prices and Hawaii-centric route network fell victim to TPG new metrics which increased focus on airfare and network size.

8. JetBlue

Previous rank: 4

Why it's here: JetBlue suffered the most significant drop in this year's rankings. The New York-based airline struggled with on-time arrivals, baggage and change fees as well as customer satisfaction. JetBlue's position as a boutique carrier hurts it rankings with respect to the size of its route network as well as the lavishness of its frequent flyer program.

7. Spirit Airlines

Previous rank: 10

Why it's here: Spirit jumped three spots in the rankings due to its improvement in areas such as the number of lost baggage while also benefiting from the missteps of its rivals and the merger of Alaska and Virgin America.

(Getty)

6. American

Previous rank: 5

Why it's here: American Airlines didn't make many moves apart from a one spot from after the Virgin/Alaska merger. The airline struggled with on-time arrivals, fees, lost baggage, and customer satisfaction.

(Getty)

5. Frontier Airlines

Previous rank: 9

Why it's here: Frontier Airlines made a surprising jump up the rankings. The ultra-low-cost carrier benefitted from its route expansion and its improvement in baggage handling.

4. United Airlines

Previous rank: 2

Why it's here: United Airlines rocky 2017 caused it to fall two spots, but not for the reasons you'd expect. United saw marked improvement in operational effectiveness with the number customer complaints down 17% while also decreasing the number of people involuntarily bumped from flights. However, the airline couldn't keep up with its rivals in areas such as airfare and the quality of its airport lounges.

3. Delta Air Lines

Previous rank: 7

Why it's here: Delta made big strides in airfare, the involuntary bumps, and its frequent flyer program while maintaining its high rankings in on-time performance, lost baggage, and the size of its route network.

2. Southwest Airlines

Previous rank: 6

Why it's here: Southwest improved four spots over the past year thanks to lower airfare and the expansion of its sizable route network. The airline's stellar customer satisfaction score and its free checked baggage policy also helped.

1. Alaska Airlines

Previous rank: 1

Why it's here: Alaska Airlines maintained its top spot by scoring in the top three in several key criteria including airfare, on-time arrivals, customer satisfaction, baggage handling, and its frequent flyer program.

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