A jury has ruled that a clothing brand should pay over $1million to four American Airlines flight attendants who said chemicals in their uniforms made them sick.
American Airlines gave out the new uniforms in 2016 and at first the attendants were happy to be given a new outfit after wearing the same one for a decade.
But then complaints started, with attendants reporting rashes, headaches and breathing problems while wearing the new clothes.
One woman, Tracey Silver-Charan, told The Post: ‘I would wake up and my eyes would be completely swollen. I looked like I had been in a boxing match.
‘I was unable to breathe. I often felt like I was going to pass out on the job. I was coming home and my husband was running me to the urgent care.’
Employee Heather Poole claimed her uniform made her sick
But she said whenever she came home from a trip, she would start to feel better.
Other attendants felt the same and in 2017, a group of 425 American Airlines employees filed a lawsuit against the uniforms’ manufacturer, Twin Hill, and its former parent company, Tailored Brands.
They alleged that their health issues were caused by formaldehyde that was applied to the cotton blouses in a Chinese fabric mill.
Formaldehyde is often applied to fabric to prevent wrinkles, but in this case, the employees’ attorney Daniel Balaban said it resulted in a ‘defective product that harms people’.
A 2010 study by congressional researchers found that formaldehyde levels in clothing is generally low, but some people suffer allergic reactions including rashes, blisters, and itchy or burning skin.
The jury reached a verdict in the case on October 25 – and decided four of the employees should be awarded over $1million between them.
The judge has not yet affirmed the jury’s decision but a lawyer for the flight attendants told the Post that that step is a technicality.
It is likely just the tip of the iceberg, with over 400 other employees also seeking settlements.
The jury decided that the uniforms provided by Twin Hill Acquisition Co. were a ‘substantial factor in causing harm’ to the flight attendants.
However, jurors said the company was not negligent in its design of the garments nor in failing to recall them when complaints began to pour in.
Ms Silver-Charan will be getting a $320,000 settlement for economic losses, physical pain and mental suffering.
American Airlines handed out the uniforms to employees in 2016
In an interview with the Post, she said she told American Airlines that something was wrong with the uniforms just a month after she was given it to wear.
When other employees came forward they were allowed to wear their old blouses instead – but they still got sick from being around other employees who were still wearing it.
Eventually, Ms. Silver-Charan said she had to take six months off work unpaid, when her symptoms made it too difficult to continue with her job.
She said: ‘I had to go back to work [because] I had to put food on the table and I needed my health insurance because I was sick.
‘It was frightening. I was sick. I was scared. I was scared of losing my job.’
According to a trial brief, American Airlines terminated its contract with Twin Hill after thousands of flight attendants complained.
The largest sum awarded was $750,000 to a woman named Brenda Sabbatino.
In an email to The Post, the lead attorney, Balaban, said Sabbatino ‘developed severe chemical sensitivities to fragrances, perfumes, [and] chemical odors’ forcing her to take early retirement.
Tracey Silver-Charan was an attendant for 37 years, she developed rashes and breathing problems after wearing the uniform
The two other employees were awarded $15,000 between them for past economic losses due to headaches, rashes and fatigue.
One of the employees, Heather Poole, claimed that the uniforms made her sick and blogged about her experience.
She said: ‘I get sick every time I go to work. Every time I go to work I feel terrible.
‘Since the uniform debuted on September 20, I’ve seen more doctors than I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve learned things about toxic chemicals I never knew before.’
Tailored Brands no longer owns Twin Hill and was dismissed as a defendant during the trial.
Twin Hill and American Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.