An employee of United Airlines accused of using a racial slur toward a black customer is facing a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
Houston police issued Carmella Davano a citation for disorderly conduct on Feb. 26, after United customer Cacilie Hughes alleged that the airline agent had called her a monkey ― a historically racist term when directed toward black people.
At her arraignment last month, Davano pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charge, which is punishable only by a fine, according to Jose Soto, a spokesperson for the Houston Municipal Courts. The airline agent requested a trial by jury, which is set for June, Soto told HuffPost.
Hughes contends that Davano called her “a shining monkey” at the United terminal in Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport that day in February.
“I walked up to the woman, Carmella, and said, ‘Hi, do you have a refund code available?’ and she started yelling at me, calling me a monkey,” Hughes told The New York Times. “I was humiliated, I was crying and I was the only black woman in the area.”
Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties told the Associated Press that two witnesses backed up Hughes’ allegation.
Davano had since been removed from service as United has investigated the matter, according to airline spokesperson Jonathan Guerin.
“At United, we believe that the diversity of our workforce makes us stronger. Together, we proudly hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” said a statement from the airline.
The statement continued, “This incident is deeply offensive and does not reflect the fundamental values of our company and our 90,000 employees. That is why we took immediate action to remove this individual from the job. Since then, we have been following all of the required procedures under this individual’s union contract and are actively pursuing termination.”
The company was embroiled in controversy two years ago after a viral video showed David Dao, a Kentucky physician, being violently dragged off a United plane by Chicago aviation security officers. Dao spoke publicly about his manhandling for the first time on “Good Morning America” earlier this month. He noted that he has forgiven the airline for the incident, although watching the video still brings him to tears.
United said in an April 9 statement to “Good Morning America” that the incident with Dao was a “defining moment” and that the company will “continue to learn from that experience.”