'Humiliating': Woman claims United Airlines employee called her 'shining monkey'

HOUSTON – A Houston actress sued United Airlines, claiming an employee called her a "shining monkey."

Cacilie Hughes said Feb. 26 she was waiting for her luggage at a Houston airport after arriving from a women's empowerment speaking engagement in Michigan. Hughes said she asked an United Airlines employee, Carmella Davano, a question about speaking to an agent about a reimbursement.

Hughes claims Davano, a desk agent, yelled at her, called her a monkey, told her to stop looking at her with her "monkey face" and called her a "shining monkey."

"It was humiliating. It was demeaning. It was degrading," Hughes said. "She made me (feel) powerless." 

Her lawyers said other people witnessed the incident and asked Davano to calm down.

"I am thankful that other passengers stood up for me. Without them I would have been completely alone," Hughes said.

Hughes claims she asked United employees to call police and when they didn't, she called police. 

Davano received a citation for disorderly conduct.

"Unfortunately, the racism experienced by Cacilie was not an isolated incident with United Airlines, but part of a companywide pattern of racial discrimination. We are going to fight to enforce Cacilie Hughes' civil rights, to ensure that United Airlines eliminates its practice of racial discrimination, and to ensure the ongoing criminal prosecution of United Airline's racist employee Carmella. 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," Hughes' attorneys said.

United said the company removed Davano from her duties, but she has not yet been terminated.

United Airlines sent KPRC2 a statement that read: "At United, we believe that the diversity of our workforce makes us stronger. Together, we proudly hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. This incident is deeply offensive and does not reflect the fundamental values of our company and our 90,000 employees. That is why we took immediate action to remove this individual from the job. Since then, we have been following all of the required procedures under this individual’s union contract and are actively pursuing termination."

WATCH: Attorney for woman who sued United Airlines speaks