Southwest Airlines back in court over flight attendant firing

NEW ORLEANS — Southwest Airlines is set to return to federal court Monday in hopes of overturning an $8,000,000 award awarded to a flight attendant who said she was fired for her anti-abortion views and the order of a judge that airline lawyers would receive training on religious freedom at a higher education institution. conservative Christian legal group.

Southwest says flight attendant Charlene Carter was fired because she violated company rules requiring workplace courtesy by sending “hostile and explicit” anti-abortion messages to a co-worker , who was also president of the local union.

Carter called the union leader “despicable” for participating in the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C., where participants protested the inauguration of then-President Donald Trump and called for protecting the right to abortion.

Carter’s lawyers say in their briefs that she made it clear to management that she sent the materials “because she was a pro-life Christian, and as a Christian, she believes she must pass the message on to anyone who touches the issue of abortion.”

They argued that his firing violated federal law protecting employees from religious discrimination and that Southwest management and the union, which complained about Carr’s posts, should be held responsible for his firing.

After the trial, U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr, a Trump nominee who joined the bench in 2019, ordered the airline to tell flight attendants that under federal law it “cannot discriminate Southwest flight attendants because of their religious practices and beliefs.”

Instead, the Dallas-based airline told its employees it “does not discriminate” and asked flight attendants to follow the airline policy it cited in firing Carter.

Starr found Southwest dismissive in August for the way it explained the case to flight attendants. He ordered Southwest to pay Carter’s most recent legal fees and dictated a statement that Southwest must provide to employees.

He also ordered three lawyers in the Southwest to complete at least eight hours of religious freedom training from the Alliance Defending Freedom, which provides training on complying with the federal law prohibiting religious discrimination in the workplace. work.

The conservative group has played a leading role in multiple legal battles. These include defending a baker and a web designer who did not want to work on same-sex marriage projects, efforts to limit transgender rights and challenging federal approval long-standing of a drug most commonly used to end a pregnancy.

Carter’s lawyers said in briefs that the type of training ordered “is a trivial civil penalty for contempt” and denied that it infringes on the airline’s free speech rights.

The initial monetary award against Southwest and the union was $5.1 million, with the majority to be paid by Southwest. The judge, citing federal limits on punitive damages, later reduced them to about $800,000, including $450,000 in damages and back pay from Southwest, $300,000 in damages from the union and approximately $60,000 in interest.

ABC News

Back to top button