A lawsuit against Southwest Airlines by a former flight attendant has taken a sinister turn after another flight attendant and potential witness in the case was served a subpoena by an armed man at a crew hotel, some 2,000 miles away from her home address. Southwest has accused the attorney acting on behalf of the sacked flight attendant of working with an insider to “infiltrate” a confidential flight scheduling system to find out where the witness would be in what could amount to a serious breach of federal law.
The case brought by Charlene Carter, an ex-Southwest flight attendant who was fired in 2017 for workplace bullying and breaking the airline’s social media policy, accuses the Southwest flight attendants union of breaching their duty of fair representation and retaliation after Carter sent graphic “pro-life” Facebook messages to the union’s president.
Carter was a long-serving Southwest flight attendant who joined the airline in 1996 until her dismissal 21-years later. When she joined the airline, Carter automatically became a member of the Local 556 Transport Workers Union but in 2013 she became a ‘nonmember objector’ of the union and started to argue that the union should be decertified.
The lawsuit admits that Carter had been sending private Facebook messages to Audrey Stone, the local union’s president, for several years but in 2017 the content of these messages suddenly changed after Local 556 members participated in the ‘Women’s March on Washington D.C.’ that protested President Trump’s inauguration and advocated for various political causes.
In particular, Carter was unhappy with the union’s apparent support of Planned Parenthood who was a major sponsor of the march. She sent two messages to Stone containing a video showing an aborted infant and claiming the union was “supporting this Murder”.
Carter also posted the videos to her public Facebook account, telling her followers: “THIS IS GRAFIC (sic)….but it needs to be shared over and over….this is MURDER! So far all of you that are Pro-Abortion GOD HELP YOU!”
A few weeks later, Southwest called Carter in for a meeting to discuss the Facebook posts. In a letter explaining her dismissal, she admitted to sending the graphic videos of aborted fetuses. Her employment was terminated on March 16, 2017, for violating Southwest’s policy on harassment.
The case has been ongoing ever since but in the last few weeks, Southwest has accused Carter’s attorney of using “misappropriated confidential Southwest Airlines Co. information to send an armed process server to confront a Southwest flight attendant (Stone) alone in her room at night at a crew hotel while she was 2,000 miles from home.”
“Based on a careful investigation, Southwest has gathered evidence indicating that Gilliam (the attorney) worked with an unknown Southwest employee to infiltrate Southwest’s secure flight scheduling system to steal confidential data classified by Southwest as Sensitive Security Information,” the allegation continues.
After finding out where Stone was spending the night it’s further alleged that the process server managed to convince hotel staff to show him to her room. Southwest claims the whole goal of serving the subpoena at what should have been a secret location was “intimidate and harass a witness”.
Unsurprisingly, Stone says she was left “shocked and afraid” after being confronted by an armed man in her hotel room late at night.
So far, Carter’s attorney has refused to disclose how he got hold of Stone’s location, although Southwest is convinced it was an insider that leaked confidential information. The airline has applied for an emergency order to compel the attorney to hand over his source.
In the interim, Southwest says it has been forced to ground Stone in order to protect her. Carter’s legal team have denied the allegations and want the court to reject Southwest’s petition for formal action to be taken.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.