Southwest Airlines has been ordered to send three of its top lawyers into ‘religious freedom’ training which will be conducted by a conservative Christian advocacy group that opposes LGBTQ rights and lobbies government organizations to make abortion illegal.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) was chosen by Trump-appointed right-wing district judge Brantley Starr in a court order issued on Tuesday that found against Southwest in an ongoing case brought by ex-flight attendant Charlene Carter.
Cater was a long-serving flight attendant at the Dallas-based carrier until she was terminated in 2017 over allegations of workplace bullying that surrounded her ‘pro life’ abortion campaigning on social media.
Southwest sacked Carter for breaching its civility rules and social media policy, but a federal jury found that the airline had unlawfully discriminated against her and failed to accommodate her sincerely held religious beliefs.
Following the guilty verdict against Southwest, Judge Starr awarded Carter $810,180 in compensation and backpay and ruled that the airline must rehire Carter with full seniority and benefits. Southwest is appealing the requirement to rehire Carter.
Judge Starr also ordered Southwest to inform flight attendants that it is not allowed to discriminate against them for expressing their opinion about abortion on social media.
On Tuesday, Judge Starr ruled that rather than telling flight attendants that it is not allowed to discriminate against them, Southwest actually told crew members that it does not discriminate against them.
The actual message Southwest sent to flight attendants was: “The court ordered us to inform that Southwest does not discriminate against our employees for their religious practices and beliefs”.
Southwest did not mention Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in its memo, which the court had wanted the airline to mention.
“Not content with merely inverting the Court’s notice, Southwest also sent a memo to its flight attendants the same, stating that its employees must abide by the types of policies over which Southwest fired Cater and that it believed its firing of Carter was justified because of those policies,” the ruling explained.
Judge Starr suggested that Southwest doesn’t understand that “federal protections for religious freedom override any company civility policy”, so he has ordered three of the airline’s leading attorneys into religious freedom training.
The 8-hour training session will be conducted by the Arizona-based ADF, and Southwest must pay for the trainer’s flights, accommodation and other expenses.
ADF has been involved in a number of high-profile legal cases, including the Supreme Court cases. The organization support anti-LGBTQ policies and opposes abortion rights.
Once the lawyers – Kerrie Forbes, Kevin Minchey, and Chris Maberry – have attended the training session, Southwest will be required to send verbatim a new notice to flight attendants which has been written by the court.
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.