A federal judge in the Lone Star State has ordered three attorneys for Southwest Airlines to attend a Christian law firm’s eight-hour course on religious liberty for having violated court orders issuing from a pro-life flight attendant’s religious discrimination case.
In addition to hammering the attorneys over their apparent insolence, U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr, nominated by former President Donald Trump in 2019, has made sure Southwest cannot hide from its employees its past discriminatory behavior or its legal inability to repeat that behavior, requiring that they say as much in an internal memo.
What’s the background?
TheBlaze previously reported that Southwest Airlines fired Charlene Carter in 2017 for expressing pro-life views and taking issue with the requirement that she subsidize pro-abortion activism by way of mandatory union dues. She had been with the airline for roughly 20 years.
With the help of free legal aid from the National Right to Work Foundation, Carter took the Transport Workers Union and Southwest to court.
In July 2022, a federal jury agreed that Carter had been wrongfully terminated for her pro-life and religious views and awarded the former flight attendant a $5.1 million verdict — $950,000 from Local 556 of the Transport Workers Union and $4.15 million from Southwest Airlines.
Starr reportedly had to reduce the original amount to $810,180, including $150,000 in back pay, because federal discrimination law limits damages that companies can pay out.
In December, Starr further ordered the company to reinstate Carter with full seniority and benefits.
Extra to compensation and reinstatement, Starr ordered the airline and union to take various corrective actions, such as informing “Southwest flight attendants that, under Title VII, they may not discriminate against Southwest flight attendants for their religious practices and beliefs, including – but not limited to – those expressed on social media and those concerning abortion.”
It appears the airline did not follow Starr’s order to the letter or even the sentence.
According to a sanction order issued by Starr on Monday, messages dispatched by Southwest airlines to employees “failed to mention Title VII, that the federal law known as Title VII contains a prohibition, and that that prohibition forbids Southwest from discriminating against flight attendants for their religious beliefs.”
Instead, they said only, “Southwest does not discriminate against our Employees for their religious practices and beliefs.
“In the universe we live in — the one where words mean something — Southwest’s notice didn’t come close to complying with the Court’s order,” wrote Starr.
The federal judge indicated the attorneys for the airline further violated the court’s corrective order by circulating a memo around the company “stating that its employees must abide by the types of policies over which Southwest fired Carter and that it believed its firing of Carter was justified because of these policies.”
Consequently, Carter moved for sanctions, and the court moved to take Southwest to task once more.
The airline has been ordered to send attorneys Ferrie Forbes, Kevin Minchey, and Chris Maberry to religious liberty training, which will be conducted by the Alliance Defending Freedom, concluding that this “is the least restrictive means of achieving compliance with the Court’s order.”
Starr stated that “Southwest must transport ADF’s representative to Dallas and be responsible for any food, accommodation, or other travel expenses for ADF’s representative.”
Starr has also ordered the airline to issue an email to its flight attendants explaining how its previous messages were wrong, along with the correct message.
Concerning the order, Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said in a statement obtained by TheBlaze, “Southwest’s past behavior against Carter was discriminatory and illegal, and the District Court’s order rightly shuts down Southwest Airlines’ bald-faced attempt to dodge its responsibility to inform flight attendants of its wrongdoing.”
“Hopefully this order provides hope to other independent minded workers that their right to express their religious dissent against union and company political agendas cannot so easily be waved away,” added Mix.
The ADF said in a statement to CNN it is “pleased that the judge and jury protected the religious speech of the employee in this case.”
Jim Campbell, chief legal counsel for ADF, said, “Every company should respect religious liberty and diverse viewpoints in the workplace. … We are happy to help Southwest achieve that goal by providing training on Title VII and other applicable laws barring religious discrimination.”
Southwest and the union appealed the December ruling and told CNN they will similarly appeal Starr’s sanctions order.
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