American Airlines

Longtime Flight Attendant Suing American Over Handling of Sex Assault Claim Against Celebrity Chef

Company says it severed relationship with celebrity chef after investigating

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A longtime American Airlines flight attendant is suing the airline over how it handled her complaint that she was sexually assaulted by a celebrity chef during a work trip.

"At the end of the day, I'm not Jane Doe. I'm Kimberly Goesling," she said in an interview.

Goesling initially filed the lawsuit using the pseudonym but has decided to go public with her story.

Goesling, of Fort Worth, Texas, has worked for American Airlines for 31 years.

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The assault happened during a 2018 trip to Germany, where she had been assigned to work on a new menu and new food options for international flights.

The chef and restaurateur, Mark Sargeant, of Kent, England, was working with the team.

Mark Sargeant at Harrods, central London.
Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images
Mark Sargeant at Harrods, central London in 2006. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

He showed up uninvited one night outside Goesling’s hotel room after sending her inappropriate text messages, which she ignored, she said.

"It wasn't like a light knocking. It was (like) something was wrong, somebody needed something,” she said, pounding on the table to demonstrate. "I remember going to the door and thinking, ‘Wow, it's him!’"

She said she barely opened the door.

"That’s when he forced his way into my room,” she said.

At first, Goesling filed the lawsuit only against Sargeant. Both sides quickly agreed on a confidential settlement.

Sargeant was not criminally charged.

Goesling said she tried to report the crime to police in Fort Worth when she returned, but they said they lacked authority since it happened in Germany.

The Dallas attorney who represented Sargeant, Gary Kessler, did not return an email seeking comment.

After settling with Sargeant, Goesling added American Airlines as a defendant, accusing the company of mishandling the situation and, in effect, putting her on trial.

"They've deposed my best friends,” she said. “They reached out and deposed my ex-boyfriend."

They even asked her mother personal questions about her, she said.

"American's literature says, ‘You see something, report it. We'll protect you. We'll take care of you. We don't tolerate bad behavior.’ Well, that's what they say but they did exactly the opposite in this case,” Goesling’s attorney Rob Miller said.

The airline issued a short statement.

"American has an unwavering commitment to its team members,” the statement said. “Immediately after the incident was reported, we conducted an investigation and severed our business relationship with the accused individual ... Ms. Goesling remains a valued member of our team."

Goesling said she feels betrayed.

"I want an apology. I'd like to have an apology,” she said. “I'd like to sit down and talk to our leaders to find out what happened. What went wrong?"

The dispute is set to go to trial in July, but American asked the judge to delay the proceeding.

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