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Alaska Airlines Accused of Illegal Discrimination Against Flight Attendants With Male and Female Uniforms

Alaska Airlines Accused of Illegal Discrimination Against Flight Attendants With Male and Female Uniforms

Alaska Airlines has been accused of discriminating against non-binary and gender non-conforming flight attendants by making staffers adhere to a uniform policy that enforces binary options of male and female. In an open letter, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told the Seattle-based airline to take immediate corrective action or face the threat of legal action.

The ACLU claims Alaska currently has two uniform and grooming policies. One policy is written for “male” employees and the other policy is written for “female” flight attendants. Although Alaska recognizes and accommodates transgender workers, its rules ignore the rights and needs of employees who don’t see themselves as either male or female or are gender fluid.

The ACLU highlighted a slew of disparities including allowing female workers to wear long hair down except for during meal service while requiring male flight attendants to tie long hair back at all times. Female workers aren’t allowed facial hair and male employees aren’t allowed to wear makeup except for concealer or tinted moisturizer.

Male employees can’t wear as many earrings as female flight attendants but female crew aren’t allowed to roll their sleeves up – a practice that is perfectly fine for male flight attendants. High heeled shoes are also a tricky subject of the differing uniform policies, as to are the types of nail polish that flight attendants can wear.

The ACLU is representing Justin Wetherell, an Alaska Airlines flight attendant and instructor who identifies as non-binary and feels trapped by Alaska’s current uniform policies.

“When I am working as a flight attendant instructor and allowed to wear regular business attire, I am not forced into Alaska Airlines’ ‘male’ or ‘female’ uniform policies — neither of which fit me because I am non-binary,” Justin explains.

“But when I work as a flight attendant, I am forced into one of two standards, often for up to four days at a time,” Justin, who has worked for Alaska for 7 years continued.

“I am willing to follow all of the elements of the uniform policy for professional attire, as I do when I work as an instructor, but I don’t want to be forced into a binary uniform that excludes me and leads to me being misgendered at work.”

Alaska Airlines revealed a new look uniform back in 2018 after it acquired the now-defunct Virgin America brand. Designed by Seattle-based fashion designer Luly Yang, the new collection encompasses 90 individual garments – designed specifically for male or female employees.

The ACLU claims employees must pick clothing from only one set of uniform – either male or female.

Justin requested to wear uniform pieces from both the male and female collections but his application was “summarily” rejected in January because it might harm the airline’s “branding”.

“The uniform policy places a particularly heavy burden on non-binary employees, but the uniform’s policy also harms any flight attendant who does not fit Alaska Airlines’ preferred image of either male or female,” commented Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project.

“By forcing our client and countless other employees to adhere to Alaska Airlines’ rigid gender categories, the uniform policy demeans employees who do not conform to gender stereotypes and interferes with their ability to do their jobs.”

Alaska Airlines says it will make some changes to its uniform policy later this month, including gender neutral hair policies and the ability to order any pant or parka style online regardless of the gender of the flight attendant assigned at birth.

“Over the past year, we have introduced several new guidelines designed to give our flight attendants more inclusive uniform options,” a spokesperson for the airline told us in an emailed statement.

“We are committed to continuing to explore uniform and grooming standards for our flight attendants. We know we cannot do this alone, and appreciate the feedback and partnership we have with our flight attendant community,” the statement continued.

“Alaska Airlines has been a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. We have been a leader in the industry when it comes to inclusivity in our uniform and grooming standards, which have been informed by our employees and developed in accordance with federal and state laws.”

In 2018, Air New Zealand announced plans to design a new flight attendant uniform that would include gender-neutral items. The new collection was meant to be rolled out at some point in 2021 but the project is likely to be delayed because of the pandemic.

Alaska Airlines has been contacted for comment.

View Comments (21)
    • No not really. Only 6% of that 500k died directly from COVID according to the CDC.
      Covid doesn’t look to scary now, does it, considering that 6% of 500k is only 30k .. out of 360 million.

  • Seriously. the ACLU and that Justin person can GFT. Frankly, I am appalled at the speciesism of their arguments. I want trained chimps to serve me

  • Let’s face it, some discrimination is hard to get rid of. Mens and womens rest rooms. Mens and womens sports. Mens and womens uniforms.

    Flight attendant uniforms should be of 3 major designs. One is to mimic that of a ship. This is the most common. The other is that of a hostess. Singapore Airlines is an example of that. The third is only used to Antarctica flights, that of a green military style jumpsuit. Maybe this should be the unisex uniform?

    To me, Alaska Airlines allowance to pick which set of uniform is reasonable. Pick some from one choice and some from another is plain weird. Why not also add blue jeans? Or wear white men’s underpants over the trousers as some unknown sort of statement? It seems that Alaska Airlines does not force you to have your Oscar Meyer weiner or pink taco examined by them to determine which uniform you are allowed to wear.

  • The ACLU is worried about 1% of the population who are crossed instead of defending free speech/religious freedom/freedom of association/property rights. People who aren’t evil and who actually think wish Germany won WWII because we wouldn’t have this insanity.

  • This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read today. I’ve read 3 articles, all of which would have been interesting, except racism and sexism were brought into the topic. If you are an employee you must wear what your employer dictates. If you don’t like it, get another job. They are not there to cater to you. And Alaska Airlines, buck up and straighten up and fly right.

  • I don’t get it. The argument is not clear. All uniforms have restrictions. Does the LBT community want zero restrictions?

  • Why doesn’t the alcu pay for therapy to address the real problem in this scenario, instead of threatening a company providing jobs and services

  • Alaska is absolutely not the only airline to enforce binary dress codes. Honestly, this is something I would like to see industry wide, but it’s slow to change. As long as someone’s appearance is neat and clean, there is no reason for the draconian rules that the general public would probably be shocked by, such as requiring female flight attendants to wear heels (when you’re often on your feet for up to 12 hours a day – but sure don’t get paid for that!) or requiring makeup (e.g., women must wear specific makeup, including blush, which doesn’t always show up on all skin tones). It should be recognizable as a uniform so FAs are easily identified, especially in an emergency, but more important than appearance is the ability of the FA to do their job and how customers are treated. This should be the focus, not “your hair can’t be six inches below your shoulder” or “your nail polish must be only pink or red”. There are many ways to look best and presentable. If there’s an emergency evacuation, would you really care that your FA has tattoos or a mixed gender uniform? Does being non-binary make someone any less competent at performing CPR? No, and I honestly can’t believe anyone really cares.

  • Please tell me this isn’t real this website is like the onion right? Because if the ACLU is up to these kinds of tricks they can just go calculate themselves!

  • These non binary mfers can go F themselves. Choose a dam gender and stick to it you F’s. F out a here with this nonsense.

  • How much more stupidy do we have to endure.
    How long will it be before this non human gets the fact that nobody cares.
    So sick of having peoples sexuality displayed and forced in our faces!
    If you choose employment with a company you SHOULD follow ALL rules presented to you upon hiring, or go down the road!

  • What does a non-binary uniform look like? And, would the uniform worn by those identifying as non-binary be uniform?
    I would truly like to understand because I find it all very confusing. In particular, I am puzzled by how much emphasis is placed on what people wear, uniformed jobs/positions excluded.

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