I was happy to be flying back to Texas. After the cocaine incident described in Part 3 of my story, I did a lot of thinking and wondered even more about Roberto and the events surrounding my firing from the airline just before I would have gotten off probation. Dee, my flight attendant friend, had said something about Roberto and cocaine, when I asked her where she and the other flight attendants got their supply. I began to wonder if there was much more to this story. I spent the entire night awake as we were flying back to Texas, which took 10 hours.
After arriving back in Texas, a friend of mine, Carol, who was married to Fran, a pilot for the Airline, insisted that I sue the company for sexual harassment. Fran agreed and said that Roberto needed to be stopped. He had been privy to complaints on some of his flights, from Flight Attendants who were harassed by Roberto.
I went to the EEOC with my case, and they gave me the letter of permission to sue. Carol got her attorney, who was one of the best, to take my case on contingency. However, I signed a contract stating that I would pay $5,000 win or lose. I put down a deposit of $500.00.
The depositions began, and everything was going our way. It was completely evident that Roberto was lying. He couldn’t keep his story straight and when he got flustered he was difficult to understand.
John P., the pilot who was on the plane the night in question, flew in from Kansas where he lived, to be interviewed. There were two other pilots who piloted the plane that night who wanted to testify, but were discouraged by the management of the airline. Everyone was afraid for their jobs. Not one person except John P. came to my defense, not even my “friends” who had promised they would have my back if my job was threatened as had been rumored.
It was finally the night before the trial, I had not asked for a Jury, so the case would be tried before a Judge. I was told by my Attorney that this Judge was really good on sexual harassment cases. I was not suing for a lot of money, just reinstatement, back pay and compensation for emotional suffering.
The next morning, Carol and Fran were with me in court. John P. was there, he had flown in at his own expense. He had not let himself be intimidated, as the other pilots had been. Roberto and the Airline Attorneys were present, but my Attorney didn’t show up and sent his Assistant to argue the case. He arrived late, and gave no explanations for his presence there instead of my Attorney. He put me and John on the stand, and then rested the case. He didn’t call Roberto to the stand. The Judge said he had to dismiss the case because the Attorney had “rested” and the other side had not been able to defend against the charges.
The Assistant to my Attorney, the Airline Attorneys and Roberto packed up, and dashed out of the courtroom without a glance in our direction. Carol, Fran, John and I were still sitting there, and Carol said, “What just happened?” We were all stunned. I never got a bill for the $4,500.00 that I owed to my Attorney, and we never saw him nor heard from him again. Most people, however, were not surprised. It’s hard to sue a large corporation with deep pockets. And, at that time, sexual harassment was not taken very seriously.
So, what about Roberto? My next door neighbor, Dorothy, worked for the Airline as Director of Crew Housing, and knew everything that happened at the airline. She had worked there for years. She said that Roberto was becoming very erratic and during a training session on “hostage taking,” he had pulled out his gun and said he didn’t need training because he had “this.” It was illegal to have guns in any kind of training situation. He was arrested, then released and was not fired.
Then apparently drugs were found inside the paneling of an aircraft after he had worked a trip from Puerto Rico, his home of origin. Word got around that he was supplying drugs to some crew members as well as others in upper management.
There were suddenly a lot of firings. Dorothy said that the people involved in my firing were all fired, except for Roberto. The VP who had been on my flight in first class on the fatal night, was demoted and transferred. Then the news came that Roberto had suddenly dropped dead in the isle while working a flight to Hawaii.
Roberto’s reign of oppression was over. His harassment of female Flight Attendants had gone on for many years, since he started flying as a young man and now was over 50 years old. I was told that his file at the Flight Attendant Union was thick with complaints, but he was slippery and no one had dared challenge him. Also, if he was the supplier of drugs, especially cocaine, he literally had them in the palm of his hand.
The other Portuguese speaking flight attendants whom I had helped hire, continued on the job and some still fly today. I was the only casualty of the threats that we would be taken down one by one. If I had gone away quietly, the others would have been next, as was discussed in the first episode of “Flying down to Rio.”
Well, that’s the end of the story of my brief adventure into the world of flying. I must say, there was never a dull moment!