(NEW YORK POST) — A United Airlines employee repeatedly shouted racial slurs at an actress in view of other customers, calling her a “shining monkey,” according to the woman’s attorneys and court documents.
The actress, Cacilie Hughes, was returning home to Houston on Feb. 26 after a speaking engagement on women’s empowerment at a university in Michigan when she encountered a United Airlines employee named Carmella Davano while waiting for her luggage to arrive, according to attorneys Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand.
Hughes, 31, then asked Davano for a “refund code,” prompting the woman to erupt at United’s terminal inside George Bush Intercontinental Airport and call her a “monkey” and a “shining monkey,” Hughes told the New York Times.
“I was humiliated,” Hughes told the newspaper. “I was crying and I was the only black woman in the area.”
Crump and Rand, who are holding a press conference Tuesday on the alleged incident, said in a news release Monday that Davano also told Hughes to stop looking at her with her “monkey face.” Other passengers at the terminal witnessed the exchange and tried to intervene, but were unsuccessful.
Hughes then asked another United employee to call police, a request that was denied, leading her to contact authorities herself. Davano was later criminally charged with disorderly conduct for using a racial slur, Crump and Rand said.
Court documents obtained by the New York Times show that the misdemeanor charge was filed against Davano, who could not be reached for comment, one month after Houston police issued her a citation for profane and abusive language in a public space.
The outlet reports that two witnesses also told responding officers that they heard Davano direct the slurs toward Hughes, who appeared in 2015’s “Focus” alongside actor Will Smith. She’s also the vice president of the Big Sister Little Sister Mentoring Program, according to the nonprofit group’s website.
Davano could not be reached for comment Tuesday. She has not returned to work for United since the alleged incident, according to a statement from the airline obtained by The Post.
“At United, we proudly hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” the statement reads. “We have withheld the employee from service since the night of the incident pending an internal investigation. Upon conclusion of the investigation, we will take any and all appropriate corrective action up to and including termination.”
Crump and Rand said the incident is the latest example of a “companywide pattern of racial discrimination” by United Airlines, citing a Nigerian woman’s lawsuit alleging that she was kicked off a flight last year after a white passenger said she smelled.
The attorneys also referenced Eric Murdock, a former NBA point guard who sued the airline for $10 million in December for kicking him out of an exit row before allowing a white passenger to take his seat.
“Racial slurs like ‘shining monkey’ should be relics of history, not resurrected to fuel the fire of racism faced by so many African Americans in today’s society and condoned on United Airlines flights,” Crump and Rand’s joint statement read.