First Liberty Institute filed separate charges of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) on behalf of two flight attendants against Alaska Airlines. The charges come after the airline terminated the two flight attendants because they asked questions emanating from their religious beliefs about the company’s support for the “Equality Act” in a forum created by the airline to facilitate employee discussion about the company’s policies.
“The corporate ‘canceling’ of our clients by Alaska Airlines makes a mockery of laws that protect religious Americans from employment discrimination,” said David Hacker, Director of Litigation for First Liberty Institute. “It is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their religious beliefs and expression. Every American should be frightened if an employer can fire them for simply asking questions based on their religious beliefs about culturally important issues.”
In early 2021, Alaska Airlines announced its support for the Equality Act on an internal employee message board and invited employees to comment. Flight attendant Lacey Smith posted a question, asking, “As a company, do you think it’s possible to regulate morality?” In the same forum, First Liberty’s second client asked, “Does Alaska support: endangering the Church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating women rights and parental rights? ….” Both clients were subsequently investigated, questioned by airline authorities, and eventually fired from their jobs.
In its notice of discharge to Ms. Smith, Alaska Airlines claimed, “Defining gender identity or sexual orientation as a moral issue … is … a discriminatory statement.”
In its complaints to the EEOC, First Liberty attorneys state, “[Our clients are] firmly committed to equality and diversity and always treating others with kindness and respect. [They] simply sought clarification of the airlines’ position, yet after asking [their] question[s] in response to the company’s invitation, [they were] fired. In firing [our clients], Alaska Airlines discriminated against them on the basis of religion, perpetuated a hostile work environment, failed to grant them a religious accommodation allowing them to express their opinions on the same basis as other protected classes, and retaliated against them.”