A lawsuit seeks damages against Alaska Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) after two flight attendants were fired for what they claim was the expression of their Christian faith in “Alaska’s World,” an internal employee-only communication network.
Claim: Christian Flight Attendants Fired At Alaska Airlines For Opposition To Equality Act
This case involves two (former) Alaska Airlines flight attendants, Lacey Smith and Marli Brown.
In 2020, Lacey created a petition entitled “Depoliticizing Alaska Airlines” which raised concerns over Alaska’s public support for the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically questioning calls to defund the police. Although the petition expressed support for racial equality, Lacey claims she was suspended for 30 days due to the petition.
In 2021, Alaska posted its support of the Equality Act (expands the definition of unlawful discrimination to prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity) in Alaska’s World and invited discussion. Lacey posted:
“As a company, do you think it’s possible to regulate morality?”
The union president, Jeff Peterson, purportedly reached out to Alaska to complain about how he found the comment offensive. Rather than delete the comment, Andy Schneider, Alaska’s Senior Vice President of People, responded:
“Supporting the Equality Act is not about regulating morality. It’s about supporting laws that allow our LGBTQ+ employees and guests, no matter what state they live in or fly to, to be protected against discrimination.”
Then Brown responded:
“Does Alaska support: endangering the Church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating women rights and parental rights? This act will force every American to agree with controversial government-imposed ideology on or be treated as an outlaw. The Equality Act demolishes existing civil rights and constitutional freedoms which threatens constitutional freedoms by eliminating conscience protections from the Civil Rights Act. The Equality Act would affect everything from girls’ and women’s showers and locker rooms to women’s shelters and women’s prisons, endangering safety and diminishing privacy. Giving people blanket permission to enter private spaces for the opposite sex enables sexual predators to exploit the rules and gain easy access to victims.”
In a private chat, union representatives mocked Brown and Lacey:
“Can we PLEASE get someone to shut down comments, or put Marli and Lacey in a burlap bag and drop them in a well…”
The flight attendant comments were flagged and removed. Alaska then launched an investigation and purportedly fired the two flight attendants based on their comments above.
The two are now suing both Alaska and the AFA (and the docket is complicated and reaches back to 2022….the delay in launching this lawsuit has meant that certain statutes of limitation have passed).
At this stage, the plaintiffs are asking for summary judgment, arguing the evidence is so clear-cut that a trial is not even necessary.
A key allegation in the lawsuit: other employee were allowed to post “offensive, racist, or hurtful” items without discipline.
They point to another Alaska employee who posted, “Any Christian that thinks like this should have their teeth kicked in!” and received no discipline beyond an oral warning. Another Alaska employee purportedly received no discipline for taunting a co-worker about praying.
The issue here is not free speech: rather, it is whether employees of faith who did not toe the company line were treated in an unlawfully discriminatory manner.
We will be following this case closely. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for February 23, 2024.
image: Alaska Airlines