NRL News

Judge sanctions Southwest Airlines for ignoring court order regarding pro-life employee

by | Aug 15, 2023

By Bridget Sielicki

Last week, a federal judge in Texas issued sanctions against Southwest Airlines and ordered its attorneys to undergo “religious liberty training” after it was revealed that the airline ignored a previous order pertaining to the firing of a pro-life employee.

In 2017, Charlene Carter filed a lawsuit against the airline in which she said she was unfairly fired from her job as a flight attendant due to her pro-life beliefs. Carter had been critical of her union’s decision to participate in the 2017 Women’s March, due to its association with Planned Parenthood.

The court ruled in her favor, and Southwest was ordered to reinstate Carter and pay her $810,180 in damages, including $150,000 in back pay. The airline was also instructed to notify its employees of their rights against religious discrimination.

However, rather than doing that, Southwest instead warned employees not to violate company policies.

After the ruling, Southwest issued a “Recent Court Decision” memo, in which it downplayed the significance of Carter’s firing. Carter’s attorneys from the National Right to Work Foundation (NRTW) maintain that the memo implied that Southwest will determine what kind of religious speech is acceptable in the workplace.

“First, Southwest Airlines violated Charlene Carter’s rights by firing her at the union’s behest. Now, the airline is doubling down by misleading other workers about its wrongdoing in defiance of a federal court order,” said NRTW President Mark Mix.

In his August 7 ruling, U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr noted that Southwest flaunted the court’s original order by twisting words.

The court ordered ‘Southwest . . . to inform Southwest flight attendants that, under Title VII, [Southwest] may not discriminate against Southwest flight attendants for their religious practices and beliefs.’ Instead, Southwest’s notice said, ‘[t]he court [] ordered us to inform you that Southwest does not discriminate against our Employees for their religious practices and beliefs. 

Southwest’s notice failed to mention Title VII, that the federal law known as Title VII contains a prohibition, and that that prohibition forbids Southwest from discriminating against flight attendants for their religious beliefs.

Starr also noted that Southwest’s memo stated: “that its employees must abide by the types of policies over which Southwest fired Carter and that it believed its firing of Carter was justified because of those policies.”

Starr has now ordered Southwest to provide a statement verbatim to its flight attendants to “set the record straight” and instructed that attorneys Kerrie Forbes, Kevin Minchey, and Chris Maberry attend an eight-hour training conducted by Alliance Defending Freedom.

Southwest has said it will appeal Starr’s latest decision.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Live Action News and is reposted with permission.

Categories: Judicial