Four American Airlines flight attendants who claimed that their work uniform made them sick were awarded more than $1 million by a jury at the Alameda County Superior Court in California.
The lawsuit filed by more than 400 flight attendants against clothing manufacturer Twin Mill alleged that the 2016 batch of new American Airlines uniforms were chemically treated with formaldehyde, toluene, and other toxic chemicals. These chemicals, especially formaldehyde, were used to keep the uniform fabric from wrinkling.
Twin Hill’s former parent company Tailored Brands was also named in the original lawsuit, but was eventually dismissed as a defendant before the jury verdict.
The toxic chemicals found in the uniform fabrics allegedly caused a myriad of health issues for American Airlines employees ranging from skin irritation to respiratory problems.
One of the plaintiffs, Tracy Silver-Charan, worked as a flight attendant for 37 years, and had gone through several uniform changes with American Airlines.
In an interview with the Washington Post, she said that she did not suspect that it was the 2016 uniform batch that made her “violently sick.” Silver-Charan observed that she immediately felt better after flights when she would return home and change clothing.
After reporting the issue to her employer, Silver-Charan was allowed to wear uniform from older batches. However, her symptoms persisted whenever she worked around those who continued to wear the treated uniforms.
In November 2016, Silver-Charan was forced to take six months’ leave due to the gravity and persistence of her health issues.
American Airlines eventually ended the contract with Twin Hill and entered into a new contract with US clothing company Land’s End to provide uniforms.
In October 2023, the jury decided that uniforms provided by Twin Hill were a “substantial factor in causing harm” to the flight attendants.
The jury awarded Silver-Charan $320,000 for economic losses and noneconomic losses, including physical pain and mental suffering. Another flight attendant, Brenda Sabbatino, was awarded the biggest sum of $750,000.