Airline accused of unlawfully firing employees who questioned company's support of Equality Act

Alaska Airlines | Courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has been accused of religious discrimination over the firing of two Christian employees who questioned the company’s endorsement of the controversial Equality Act.

If enacted, the Equality Act, which is making its way through Congress, would add sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights antidiscrimination laws.

The First Liberty Institute filed two “Charge of Discrimination” complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last month against Alaska Airlines on behalf of two flight attendants, Lacey Smith and another whose name has been kept private.

In a statement released Friday, FLI denounced the firing of Smith as an example of “corporate ‘canceling,’” arguing that it violated federal protections for the religious beliefs of employees.

“The idea that an employer can fire an employee for expressing a religious belief is chilling — especially when you consider the fact that the ‘Equality’ Act is still a proposal, and it has not been signed into law,” wrote Liberty McArtor of FLI.

“This makes Lacey’s termination even more shocking because our current state and federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination against someone because of their religious beliefs and expression.”

According to the complaints, earlier this year, Alaska Airlines posted on an “internal employee forum” about the company’s support for the Equality Act and welcomed comments from others.

After Smith and a coworker asked questions expressing concern about the endorsement of the Equality Act, the company fired them both, claiming that their comments were hateful.

The two former employees have accused the airline of engaging in retaliation, religious discrimination, and creating a “hostile work environment.”

The Christian Post reached out to Alaska Airlines for a response to the complaints filed, however, the Washington-based company did not return comment by press time. 

Alaska Airlines is one of around 400 businesses that have declared their support for the passage of the legislation, being listed as part of the Business Coalition for the Equality Act.

Supporters of the Equality Act have argued that it's necessary to protect LGBT individuals in the workplace, especially due to several states not explicitly offering such protections.

The proposed legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives in February by a vote that was largely along party lines, however, it remains to be voted on by the Senate.

The LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign celebrated the bill's passage in the House, with HRC President Alphonso David calling it “a major milestone for equality.”

“Now, we look forward to a hearing and vote in the Senate to finally allow LGBTQ Americans the ability to live their lives free from discrimination,” stated David at the time.

Critics of the legislation, among them Robert Netzly, the CEO of Inspire Investing, believe the Equality Act would marginalize religious groups and others who object to homosexuality, gay marriage, or transgender ideology.

“It cancels by name specific provisions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, putting religious employers such as churches and private religious schools, hospitals, adoption agencies, and others at severe risk of lawsuits,” wrote Netzly in a column for CP back in June.

“Equality should be for all people, including female athletes who want an equal playing field when they compete, people of faith who have moral convictions about heterosexuality, and female prison inmates who should not be forced to share a cell with violent felons convicted for preying upon women.”

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