A federal judge has ordered Southwest Airlines and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to reinstate a former flight attendant after she was fired for her pro-life beliefs.
Southwest Airlines has the reputation of being one of the friendliest airlines, known for their customer service and benevolent flight attendants. Its vision and purpose are, after all, “To be the world’s most loved … airline” and to “connect People to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.” And the company’s stock symbol is “LUV.”
Unfortunately, Southwest may not be especially friendly to their employees who are outspoken about their pro-life beliefs.
Previously, the Daily Citizen wrote about flight attendant Charlene Carter, who is a pro-life Christian and worked for Southwest from 1996 until 2017.
As we reported, “Her employment came to an abrupt end shortly after she learned that the president of her union, Audrey Stone of the Transport Workers Union Local 556, and other union officials had attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., and used union dues to attend.
“The Women’s March is known for being notoriously pro-abortion, and Ms. Carter was upset that her union dues were going to support abortion. And she let Stone know about it on social media.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, Carter wrote in a Facebook message to Stone, “This is what [abortion] you supported during your paid leave with others at the Women’s March in D.C. You truly are despicable in so many ways.”
After Stone reported Carter’s comments to Southwest, the airline fired her a week later.
But Carter wasn’t done – she then sued Southwest Airlines and TWU for wrongful termination.
In July 2022, a federal jury ordered that Carter be awarded $5.1 million for her wrongful termination and the discrimination against her beliefs about abortion. The award consisted of $300,000 in lost wages and benefits, $1 million for past pain and suffering, $3.5 million in punitive damages against Southwest and $300,000 in punitive damages against TWU.
Subsequently, Judge Brantley Starr, an appointee of former President Donald J. Trump, had to reduce the awarded amount to $810,180 – the maximum allowed under federal law.
Now, in a recent decision, the U.S. District Court for the North District of Texas ordered Southwest and TWU to give Carter her job back.
“Bags fly free with Southwest,” Judge Starr wrote. “But free speech didn’t fly at all with Southwest in this case.”
“Southwest may ‘wanna get away’ from Carter because she might continue to express her beliefs, but the jury found that Southwest unlawfully terminated Carter for protected expressions,” the judge added.
In a statement following the court’s decision, National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said the following:
Southwest and TWU union officials made Ms. Carter pay an unconscionable price just because she decided to speak out against the political activities of union officials in accordance with her deeply held religious beliefs. This decision vindicates Ms. Carter’s rights – but it’s also a stark reminder of the retribution that union officials will mete out against employees who refuse to toe the union line.
But according to Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King, the company will appeal the decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Southwest Airlines has a demonstrated history of supporting our employees’ rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner,” King said. “We are in the process of assessing the requirements of the recent judgment as we move forward with our plans for an appeal.”
Let’s hope that the 5th Circuit – one of the more conservative appellate courts – continues to uphold Carter’s right to speak freely and openly about her pro-life convictions.
If Ms. Stone is allowed to speak freely at the pro-abortion Women’s March, then Ms. Carter should be allowed to speak freely about her pro-life convictions.
The case is Carter v. Transport Workers Union of America Local 556.
Related articles and resources:
Southwest Flight Attendant Awarded $5.1 Million in Free Speech Case About Abortion
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