A Muslim flight attendant, whose religious beliefs forbid her from serving alcohol on flights, is suing the airline that suspended her after reneging on the accommodations they agreed to provide.
The Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a federal lawsuit in a US District Court against ExpressJet Airlines alleging that their treatment of the Muslim flight attendant violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The lawsuit claims that the airline revoked reasonable accommodations that they had provided for Charee Stanley's religious beliefs and wrongfully suspended her from employment.
The recent lawsuit is the continuation of a legal case that began last year, when the Council filed a complaint with the EEOC on the flight attendant's behalf. After conducting an investigation, the EEOC's findings were inconclusive, but the agency did say that the flight attendant has the right to sue.
And that's exactly what she is doing.
According to court documents, Stanley began to work for ExpressJet in 2013, which was around the same time that she converted to Islam. Immediately upon beginning to work, she requested to be allowed to wear a hijab, a request that was granted. Soon after, Stanley asked her employers if the other flight attendants on duty with her could serve any alcoholic drinks that were ordered while she performed other tasks. She made this request because of the Muslim proscription against drinking or serving alcohol to others.
ExpressJet approved the request and Stanley made arrangements with her co-workers; she would do other tasks onboard while they would serve alcohol.
According to the lawsuit, "This arrangement worked smoothly and without causing any problems"—until another flight attendant complained, that is. The lawsuit alleges that a co-worker of Stanley's complained about her hijab, her books in Arabic, and her refusal to serve alcohol. In August of 2015, Stanley was given an ultimatum: Resign, or start serving alcohol.
Stanley and the Council on American-Islamic Relations smell discrimination.
CAIR Michigan legal director Lena Masri said, "Employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations of the religious beliefs of their employees. ExpressJet wrongfully revoked the religious accommodation it directed Ms. Stanley to follow, and retaliated against her for following it by wrongfully suspending her employment."
MUNCHIES reached out to ExpressJet for comment and was provided with the following statement: "Regarding Ms. Stanley, we embrace and respect the values of all of our team members. We are an equal opportunity employer with a long history of diversity in our workforce. As Ms. Stanley is an employee, we are not able to comment on personnel matters nor can we comment at this time on any ongoing litigation."
Now it's up to the court in Michigan to decide whether or not ExpressJet violated Stanley's civil rights by demanding she dole out mini-bottles of mid-tier vodka.