Minneapolis, MN (WorkersCompensation.com) – Delta officials announced they will be replacing uniforms that many of the airline’s employees said made them sick.
In a statement, the airline said the new garment line would be available for flight attendants and airport customer service agents towards the end of 2021.
The current uniform line, designed by Zac Posen and produced by Land’s End, was lauded when it was launched in May 2018, but quickly began to lose its luster after nearly 3,000 Delta flight attendants, ticket agents and gate personnel reported that they were getting sick because of the clothing.
Employees reported everything from hives to headaches and severe breathing problems. And, they said, the company wasn’t doing enough to allow those affected to find uniforms that didn’t negatively impact their health. More than 500 employees filed a class action lawsuit against Land’s End over the uniforms.
“In response to our employees, we’ve taken steps over the past few months to address feedback received about the uniform, including offering alternative garments, hiring fabric experts, and conducting comprehensive chemical testing,” Ekrem Dimbiloglu, director of Delta’s new uniform program, said in a statement. “This is a big decision, but we side with our people, and we are making a change.”
The company said in a statement last week that it would use employees in its redesign and testing phases for the new garments, as well as “taking greater control of the production process.”
The company said that despite extensive testing it had been unable to determine a cause for the reactions. And, the company said, it was doing what it could to work with employees.
“We’ve created alternative garments, hired experts, tested for over 400 chemicals, incorporating OEKO-TEX’s published chemical list and testing limits, given you the option of wearing black and white, and provided access to the best doctors in the country,” the company said in a communication with employees. “We know trust in the manufacturing process is vital to your confidence in the uniform, and we believe there’s an opportunity to identify more sustainable textile practices, take greater control of the production process and offer more choice of garments – all of which we intend to explore with the new uniform. Moving forward, the uniforms also will be certified and labeled as OEKO-TEX compliant.”
OEKO-TEX is a certification that tests material for 100 different substances to ensure its safety.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which is working with flight attendants to unionize similar to flight attendants with American Airlines and Alaska Air, approved of the company’s plan.
“We applaud this step in the right direction, but encourage Delta management to take additional actions as soon as possible for the health of all flight attendants and to repair the damage caused for individuals,” Sara Nelson, president of AFA-CWA international, said in a statement.
The AFA-CWA recommended, however, that Delta replace the uniforms as quickly as possible with alternatives for the entire workforce to prevent flight attendants from being exposed to the uniforms, and to follow National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health guidelines recommending the company “remove employees with physician-diagnosed health problems related to the uniform from exposure, and retain pay and benefits for these employees… In some cases of allergic asthma and allergic contact dermatitis, employees may need to be reassigned (with retention of pay and employment status) with work conditions in which exposure is minimal or nonexistent.”