Magic Johnson’s Personal Flight Attendant Sues Him After Being Fired for Showing Up 7 Minutes Late

Magic Johnson’s personal flight attendant is suing him, claiming she was fired for showing up 7 minutes late, delayed at the deli picking up his preferred type of turkey.

His lawyers say she was 15 minutes late, though I wonder if the story has all of the relevant details. She probably should have turned up at the deli earlier and not been cutting it so close to flight time, and while the whole purpose of private aviation is to be able to fly when you’re ready to fly (not when your crew shows up) in addition to being able to fly non-stop from wherever you are to wherever you’re going, a one-time seven or fifteen minute mistake after years of service feels insufficient for dismissal.

Since she’s able to sue under California law, it’s also actionable.

Here’s what her job consisted of:

According to the lawsuit, Thomas, who worked on the basketball legend’s private Gulfstream jet, earned $75,000 a year and a $25,000 bonus. A third of her time was spent catering to Johnson’s requests: stocking the plane with newspapers, DVDs and “highly specific in-flight food and beverage choices,” such as red vine liquorice, which she was required to “regularly squeeze to make sure they were soft,” the suit claims. She was the only flight attendant on duty, and since she was so busy taking care of Johnson and his guests, she was never allowed full rest breaks or meal breaks.

While presumably intended to sound salacious, this description of life as a $100,000 a year flight attendant doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. It sounds like exactly what one would expect in the position, and that compensation is likely appropriate or more likely even generous for that. I don’t fly private, Magic Johnson does. And I do think that he should be able to insist on fresh licorice and an on-time arrival from the person assisting him inflight.

Her claims are greater than wrongful termination, she went on medical leave and the person who filled in for her while she was out was younger than her. When she was terminated, her temporary fill-in became her permanent replacement. So she’s claiming age discrimination. And since she claims that Magic Johnson wasn’t as friendly towards her after her return to work, she suggests that her late arrival was merely pretext for her dismissal so he could replace her with someone younger.

She claims she’s been unable to find work since the dismissal, I imagine it’s really tough to find a flight attendant position at $100,000 a year and tough to crack the major airlines as well and at nothing like what she was being paid. So I have no doubt that losing what was an incredibly sweet gig (even if she now complains it was too arduous and she didn’t get sufficient breaks) was hard on her.

And I would hope that after working for JordanJohnson for several years, and being dismissed for what sounds like a relatively minor infraction, she would receive some sort of generous severance. In lieu of that, it will be interesting to see whether she prevails in court. Given that she’s suing in California, my guess is she walks away with a settlement.

(HT: One-man news clipping service Alan H.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. This woman deserved to be fired. It seems a small thing to ask to be on time for such a cushy high paying job. I bet the new attendant will not be late.

  2. Reading blogs via RSS feeds is like reading a word document with track changes enabled 🙂

    PS – One more mention of Jordan in the last paragraph

  3. A few thoughts from a legal perspective (based solely on what was disclosed in the news article):

    – CA is an at-will employment state, so assuming that the former flight attendant didn’t have an employment agreement that wasn’t at-will, Johnson wouldn’t have had to have any reason to fire her.

    – However, it’s unlawful to fire someone for an unlawful reason. This includes age discrimination or because they went on medical leave to which they were legally entitled.

    – Given the two points above, providing the “7 or 15 minutes late” excuse is likely just a reasoning which is being provided to explain that she was fired for a (legally) valid reason instead of an illegal reason. Kind of analogous to an alibi – you don’t need to provide an alibi, but it helps.

    – If it’s a jury trial, the fired after “7 minutes late” after years of service may make Johnson look worse in the eyes of the jury.

    – If it’s true she was never allowed full rest breaks or meal breaks, and she was entitled to them by law (she would need to be classified as a non-exempt employee), then it doesn’t matter how much she was getting paid – she would be able to sue for backpay and penalties on top of that.

  4. Even if you believe that Magic’s people are telling the truth (not sure I do), what kind of person fires someone for being 15 minutes late on one occasion? If it’s a recurring thing, then yes, but the article doesn’t mention that.

  5. The lade had a high paying position for a relatively easy job… it sounds to me that she got “comfortable” and forgot why she was there…

  6. Forget about the flight attendant’s greivances; Magic Johnson can afford to have his own aircraft and personal flight attendant? He’s doing well in retirement. I ran into him in the ’90s on a COMMERCIAL flight (Continental) out of LAX. He was in first class (so was I, but mine was on an upgrade). How many celebrities have their own airplanes and flight crews? I would think you’d have to be pretty A-list to afford that.

  7. While I do agree that she had a high paying job, and had a prescribed set of duties…being fired for being late one time either 7 or 15 minutes late? That’s a bit much. If it was recurring, then yeah, she should be let go…but being fired for a one-time infraction is going overboard.

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