Jul 16, 2022 - Economy & Business

Ex-Southwest flight attendant wins $5.1 million in discrimination suit

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Photo Illustration: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An ex-Southwest Airlines flight attendant won a $5.1 million verdict against the airline and her union Friday after a Dallas jury found it had discriminated against her regarding an anti-abortion rights stance that stems from her religious beliefs, the AP reports.

Driving the news: The former employee, Charlene Carter, filed the suit after she was fired in 2017 following a clash with the union president over union members' attendance at a demonstration in 2017 in Washington, D.C., for abortion rights, among other issues.

  • Carter also alleged the union retaliated against her and had not fairly represented her because of her beliefs.

The other side: The airline said in court filings it had fired Carter because she could be identified as a Southwest employee while making “highly offensive” posts on her social media.

  • The airline also cited what it called “harassing” messages Carter sent to the union president, including one that contained a graphic video of what was characterized as an aborted fetus, per AP.
  • Both the posts and the private messages constituted violations of company policy, the airline said in its response to her suit.

State of play: In a statement after the verdict, Southwest said it “has demonstrated a history of supporting our employees’ rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner,” AP reported.

  • Both the company and a lawyer for the union said they plan to appeal the jury’s verdict, per AP.
  • If the verdict stands, Carter could receive $4.15 million from the airline. The union would owe her $950,000.
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