Southwest Airlines appeals decision in favor of ex-employee fired for expressing pro-life views

Unsplash/Miguel Ángel Sanz
Unsplash/Miguel Ángel Sanz

Southwest Airlines plans to fight an order from a federal judge in Texas requiring three of its attorneys to undergo “religious liberty training” after losing a lawsuit against a former employee fired for expressing pro-life religious views.

Southwest was recently ordered to reinstate former flight attendant Charlene Carter, a pro-life Christian, and to pay damages to her for having fired her for violating their “civility policy” in 2017.

United States District Judge Brantley Starr, appointed by former President Donald Trump, also ordered three Southwest lawyers to undergo a religious freedom training session with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal nonprofit that specializes in religious liberty cases.

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Southwest intends to appeal the order, according to Reuters, as well as the decision stopping the airline from restricting its employees' use of social media.

In 2017, Carter filed a lawsuit against Southwest and officials at the Transport Workers Union Local 556, accusing the airline of firing her because she opposed some of the union’s stances on issues like abortion and for opposing their support of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington, D.C.

Attended by hundreds of thousands of people, the 2017 Women’s March was launched in opposition to the election of Trump and had pro-choice groups and far-left groups as sponsors. The event included anti-Semitic and Communist Party speakers and promoted "solidarity with the sex workers' rights movement," abortion, "gender justice for two-spirit and gender nonconforming people" and the belief that motherhood is "the number one predictor of poverty."

Carter, who was represented by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, had quit the TWU in 2013 over ideological differences but still had to pay union dues as an employee of Southwest.

In July of last year, a jury sided with Carter, concluding that she was unlawfully terminated and awarding her $5.1 million in combined compensatory and punitive damages against Southwest and TWU.

"This long overdue verdict vindicates Ms. Carter's fundamental right to dissent from the causes and ideas that TWU union officials — who claim to 'represent' Southwest flight attendants — support while forcing workers to bankroll their activities," said NRWLDF President Mark Mix in a statement at the time.

"No American worker should have to fear termination, intimidation, or any other reprisal merely for speaking out against having their own money spent, purportedly in their name, to promote an agenda they find abhorrent."

Last December, Judge Starr reduced the damages payment owed to Carter to $800,000 but also ordered Southwest to reinstate Carter to her former position as a flight attendant.

The total award approved by Starr was divided into $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from Southwest, $300,000 in damages from the union, $150,000 in back pay and around $60,000 in interest.

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