EXCLUSIVE AUDIO: Southwest CEO Gary Kelly says pilot won’t be fired for offensive rant

Posted on 24 Jun 2011 at 3:41pm

 

Gary Kelly

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said in a recorded message to employees Thursday that the company doesn’t plan to revisit disciplinary action taken against a pilot whose anti-gay, misogynistic rant was captured over an open cockpit microphone in March.

Instant Tea has obtained a recording (above) of Kelly’s six-minute message posted on Newsline, a phone service for Southwest employees. In the message, Kelly said he had not been aware of the incident until the news media reported on it this week. Although some feel the pilot should be fired, Kelly said it’s too late to revisit disciplinary action that was taken against him in April, which consisted of a reprimand, a suspension and diversity training.

“People have opined that this employee should have been, or should now be fired, and let me just say that reasonable people that are fully acquainted with all of the facts could disagree on whether the severity of this discipline was sufficient for the obvious bad behavior,” Kelly said in the message. “And be that as it may, the matter was resolved already legally, and it would serve no purpose to reopen that now, even if we could. And I know that many of you do not like that decision. While there will be a complete and thorough review with management of this entire episode, it is important to understand that the discipline was rendered in April, and it cannot be reversed.”

Instant Tea also obtained a copy of a memo to employees from Jeff Lamb, Southwest’s senior vice president of administration and chief people officer. In the memo, Lamb lays out steps the company will take in the wake of the incident:

• Gary has asked me to work with our Labor Employment Group, under the Leadership of General Counsel, to investigate whether the attitudes that were communicated are an isolated instance or if we have a wider issue with lack of sensitivity in our workplace.

• We are changing the procedures used to consider and administer discipline under our Equal Employment Opportunity policies. All similar situations must go through Employee Relations and will be reviewed by General Counsel prior to discipline being administered.

• I am reviewing our Diversity training requirements for all Employees, not just Leaders. I am proud of the many efforts that we already have in place to promote, protect, and celebrate our diverse workforce, including the “Matter of Respect” training through the U4P and our Diversity Council. However, we must take it up a notch and continue to raise awareness that disparagement in any setting will not be tolerated.

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