As if Alaska Airlines didn’t have enough legal fights on its hands already, another has surfaced. Two flight attendants who it fired in March 2021 have filed lawsuits against the airline, claiming religious discrimination by the airline.
For some time, Alaska Airlines (Alaska) has been embroiled in a dispute with its pilots over a new employment contract. The significant sticking points center on flexible scheduling and pilot retention policies, and eligible pilots have until May 25 to cast their vote to authorize strike action. While it appears highly likely a majority will vote yes to the proposal, strike action is not an immediate outcome; instead, it’s the start of another process.
Alaska Airlines has some legal fights on its hands
Alaska is embroiled in a contract dispute with pilots and now is being sued by flight attendants. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying
On top of that, Alaska’s management now has to deal with the flight attendant’s lawsuit, filed on their behalf by First Liberty Institute. The flight attendants, Marli Brown and Lacey Smith, are also suing the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), claiming the union failed to uphold its responsibility to defend them because of their religious beliefs.
The case is linked to the Equality Act, a legislative bill before the US Congress that Alaska posted its full support for on an internal employee message board in early 2021. In response to a call for comment, Brown and Smith posted some of their own, which Alaska took exception to and subsequently deleted. Following an investigation, Alaska said the comments were discriminatory, hateful and offensive and dismissed the flight attendants in March 2021.
Both had worked for Alaska for eight years and had exemplary work records, including commendations for commendable customer care. In August 2021, they filed charges of religious discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Commission against Alaska Airlines. Earlier this year the commission issued right-to-sue letters to both flight attendants.
Is Alaska airlines a ‘woke’ organization?
First Liberty is a non-profit public interest law firm and the largest legal organization in the US dedicated exclusively to defending religious freedom. Senior Counsel Stephanie Taub says that Alaska ‘canceled’ Brown and Smith because of their religious beliefs and flagrantly disregarded federal civil rights laws. She added: “Woke corporations like Alaska Airlines think they do not have to follow the law and can fire employees if they simply don’t like their religious beliefs.”
Alaska has been sued by two flight attendants for religious discrimination after they were fired for making discriminatory comments. Photo: Alaska Airlines
The lawsuit, filed yesterday, claims that Alaska Airlines created a work environment that is hostile toward religion, and the AFA reinforced that company culture. It also said:
“Alaska Airlines and the AFA cannot wield their social advocacy as a sword to unlawfully discriminate against religious employees and instead must remain mindful of their legal obligation to do the right thing towards all employees.”
Simple Flying has contacted Alaska Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants for comment, and we will update the article with any response.
In a completely separate case, Frontier Airlines settled a discrimination lawsuit brought by a group of its flight attendants in 2019. Four employees claimed the carrier had discriminated against them during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Frontier agreed to clarify that pregnancy-related absences are not subject to disciplinary action and will be treated the same as other medical conditions. The airline also made concessions relating to breastfeeding and providing suitable facilities at airports.
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