Did Southwest Airlines Fire Employee Over Religious Beliefs?

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An ex-flight attendant claims that she was fired over her religious beliefs and because she spoke out against the union.

Southwest Airlines is facing a lawsuit at the hands of an ex-flight attendant who argues that she was fired on the basis of her religious beliefs and preferences which were different from that of the airline’s and the union’s. Charlene Carter from Aurora, Colo., argues that she was removed from the airline when she had expressed her thoughts on abortion in a posts on Facebook and in messages to the president of the union of Southwest Airlines.

It has been noted, Carter had sent messages to Audrey Stone, president of the union. The messages objected to the of the union’s funds to participate in January’s Women’s March protest. Carter also included a link with her message; of a video depicting an abortion. She also included links to articles that highlighted convicted terrorists that were a part of the march. Carter argued, “Recall is going to happen,” referring to a campaign she supported.

“This [an abortion] is what you supported during your Paid Leave with others at the Women’s MARCH in DC,” Carter stated in one of her several Facebook messages. “Wonder how this will be coded in the LM2 Financials … cause I know we paid for this along with your Despicable Party. … Can’t wait for you to have to be just a regular flight attendant again.”

The airline terminated Carter in March, arguing that her posts were “highly offensive in nature” and that her messages were “harassing and inappropriate” and thus a potential violation of their discrimination policy.

Carter’s lawsuit argued otherwise. Her suit claimed that she was the victim of discrimination at the hands of the airlines and highlighted several members of the union that weren’t subjected to a punishment or suspension after posting death threats on social media.

The lawsuit stated, “Southwest has subjected approximately thirteen supporters of the recall effort to termination of employment, suspension, repeated fact-findings, and/or other disciplinary measures in the last twelve months, many times at the request of Local 556 members and officials.”

Furthermore, Carter in her complaint argued, “The President of the union never told me that she objected to my Facebook messages … Southwest never warned me that using Facebook to protect life was inconsistent with its work rules.” And that, “My sincere religious beliefs require me to share with others that abortion is the taking of human life … my employer discriminated against me on the basis of my sincerely held religious belief and speech.”

The suit also indicated that Carter’s criticism of the union are protected by the Railway Labor Act as they were directly related to labor activities.

“By firing Carter for her Facebook messages to President Stone and for related posts, Southwest violated Carter’s rights under RLA … to vigorously exercise ‘uninhibited, robust, and wide-open’ free speech related to flight attendants’ efforts to reorganize Local 556, to collectively bargain with Southwest, and to oppose the union’s leadership and spending,” the suit stated. “Defendants had no valid justifications for their actions, and Carter exercised her speech in a manner that would not unduly interfere with any legitimate interest.”

Carter also won the support of Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation; along with several other lawyers at the foundation. Mix argued that the union’s action depicted an “abuse of power.” “Instead of respecting the rights of a worker they claimed to represent, union bosses used their monopoly over the workplace to have her fired for speaking out and questioning their forced unionism powers,” Mix argued.