An American Airlines flight attendant is putting her name to claims she was sexually assaulted during a company trip to Germany by British celebrity chef Mark Sargeant and then bullied by the carrier, which she says covered up the allegations.
Kimberly Goesling’s lawsuit in Tarrant County alleges that Sargeant sexually assaulted her in her hotel room during a 2018 trip to Germany, where she and others were helping to develop a European menu for international first- and business-class passengers.
Sargeant is a Michelin-starred chef, a longtime associate of Gordon Ramsay and a frequent contributor on cooking competition show Beat the Chef. He’s credited as co-author of several of Ramsay’s books.
Goesling originally filed her lawsuit as Jane Doe but chose to attach her name this week to draw attention to American Airlines’ treatment of her in investigating the alleged assault.
The Dallas Morning News doesn’t typically name sexual assault victims, but Goesling has gone public to highlight the issues in the suit. She appeared in a 34-minute interview released Tuesday with former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson as part of a series intended to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault.
“I am done,” Goesling said in a statement. “I am no longer going to hide from what happened because I’m not the bad guy and I have nothing to hide from. If anyone should be hiding, it’s American and not me.”
According to her lawsuit, the chef texted her the next day and admitted to the assault. American Airlines questioned the validity of the exchange.
No formal charges appear to have been filed in the alleged assault.
“Kimberly tried reporting it to the authorities in Texas when she returned, but was told they could do nothing because the attack happened outside their jurisdiction,” said Goesling’s Dallas lawyer, Rob Miller.
A call and email to Sargeant’s restaurant company, Rocksalt Restaurant Group, were not immediately returned Tuesday.
In a statement, American Airlines said it “immediately conducted an investigation and severed our business relationship with the accused individual.”
“American has an unwavering commitment to its team members and we’re committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment for everyone who works at our airline,” said American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller. “Because this matter involves ongoing litigation, we aren’t able to comment further at this time, other than to say that Ms. Goesling remains a valued member of our team.”
The lawsuit said the alleged assault took place in January 2018, two years after Sargeant’s relationship with American Airlines was first publicized. Goesling, a 30-year flight attendant, was invited to the event in Frankfurt, Germany, to meet with suppliers and develop changes to the international first-class menu.
During a dinner for employees, American Airlines managers purchased “numerous alcoholic drinks” for Sargeant and “although Sargeant became rowdy, boisterous and obviously intoxicated, American Airlines and its [managers] continued to pay for and provide additional drinks to Sargeant to keep him happy,” according to the lawsuit.
Sargeant started texting Goesling after she returned to her room “begging her to come to his room for a drink,” her suit said. She declined and stopped responding to him after several more texts.
She was awakened a few hours later by Sargeant pounding on her door, according to the suit. She cracked the door slightly, and Sargeant forced his way in. He allegedly grabbed Goesling, “forced his tongue in her mouth,” “grabbed her by the neck” and sexually assaulted and raped her.
Goesling said she reported the assault to American Airlines, but the company “discouraged her from further reporting the incident.” She said the company spent time “interrogating and investigating her” and interviewed her doctors.
American Airlines had previously touted its relationship with Sargeant and his influence on meals for international travelers, saying, “We’re very excited to bring onboard acclaimed British chef, Mark Sargeant” and that “Mark hand-crafted the first-class cabin menus for our London to U.S. routes, using fresh ingredients and innovative flavor combinations to create a delicious modern menu.”
Goesling’s lawsuit claims the airline withheld support for her after the assault and “threatened and discriminated against her, taking adverse employment action against her by removing her from special projects and assignments.”
She had worked on the company’s recruitment and training team.
“Still to this day, I have not gotten an ‘I’m sorry,’” Goesling said in her interview with Carlson.
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