Now Reading
Appeals Court Rules That Southwest Airlines No Longer Has to Send Three of its Lawyers to ‘Religious Liberty’ Training By a Conservative Christian Group

Appeals Court Rules That Southwest Airlines No Longer Has to Send Three of its Lawyers to ‘Religious Liberty’ Training By a Conservative Christian Group

a group of airplanes parked at an airport

Southwest Airlines has claimed a major win in its ongoing appeal against a flight attendant who accused the Dallas-based carrier of religious discrimination when it terminated her for sending ‘extremely graphic’ photos of aborted fetuses to other crew members without their consent.

Charlene Carter was sacked by Southwest in 2017 over allegations of workplace bullying, but in 2022, a Texas jury found that the airline had discriminated against Carter’s sincerely held religious beliefs.

Along with a massive $5 million compensation order, the Trump-appointed right-wing judge also ordered Southwest Airlines to send a copy of the verdict and judgement to its entire flight attendant workgroup, along with a statement that the airline may not discriminate based on religion.

To comply with the order, Southwest sent an email to flight attendants, saying that a Dallas court had “ordered us to inform you that Southwest does not discriminate against our employees for their religious practices and beliefs.”

The airline also told its flight attendants that it was “extremely disappointed” with the judgement and that the messages that Carter sent to her colleagues were “inappropriate, harassing and offensive”.

In response, Carter accused Southwest of contempt of court because Southwest Airlines said it “does not discriminate”, whereas the court had ordered the airline to tell flight attendants that it “may not discriminate”.

District Judge Brantley Starr, found in Carter’s favor and, as a sanction, ordered three of Southwest’s in-house attorneys to attend so-called ‘religious liberty’ training from a conservative Christian advocacy group that opposes LGBTQ rights and lobbies government organizations to make abortion illegal.

Pending a wider appeal in the U.S. Court Of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, the training had been put on ice and on Friday the court ruled that Judge Starr had overstepped his authority in ordering Southwest’s lawyers into religious liberty training.

The appeals court found that while Southwest could have been in contempt of court over the communications it sent to flight attendants, the sanctions for civil contempt are designed to either compel the guilty party to comply with the court’s order or compensate the plaintiff.

In this case, sending Southwest’s lawyers to religious liberty training would neither compel the airline to comply with the court’s order or compensate the Carter, the appeals court ruled.

The order read: “At bottom, it appears that the district court sought, at least in part, to punish Southwest for what the district court viewed as conduct flouting its holding that Southwest had violated Title VII. But its punitive sanctions likely exceed the scope of the court’s civil-contempt authority.”

As a result, the requirement for Southwest’s lawyers to attend the training has been put on hold while Southwest continues to appeal the rest of Carter’s lawsuit, arguing that she never presented sufficient evidence of belief-based discrimination and that she had misstated the law in her original lawsuit.

View Comments (2)
  • This posting is legally incorrect. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did not make a final ruling on anything, and hence the state “pending a wider appeal” is also wrong. The three judge panel of the 5th Circuit assigned to hear the appeal from Judge Starr’s judgment issued a stay, which means the terms of Judge Starr’s judgment are put on hold until the panel issues its final order. Nothing has been decided, nothing is final. When that panel does file its opinion, the losing party does have the option to request the matter to be heard by the entire 5th Circuit (en banc review) or try to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

    It would be nice if a correct posting appeared on your blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2023 All Rights Reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to with appropriate and specific directions to the original content.