Southwest Faces $180,000 Fee Bid in Religious Bias Case

A former flight attendant fired by Southwest Airlines is seeking approximately $180,000 in legal costs in connection with contempt proceedings that followed her victory in a religious bias lawsuit against Southwest.

Case background

In August 2017, Charlene Carter alleged that she was terminated by Southwest Airlines due to messages she sent to the union's president. The message expressed her opposition to the use of union funds to support the Planned Parenthood-sponsored Women's March in January 2017. Carter's messages contained graphic images related to abortion, and her firing was based on Southwest's assertion that she violated the company's policy promoting civility and respect among employees.

Carter won a jury trial in July 2022. The court ordered Southwest to rehire Carter, despite concerns about her social media comments criticizing the airline and alleging that the union used union dues to cover up illegal activities.

U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr imposed sanctions on Southwest for failing to comply with a December court order. Judge Starr sanctioned Southwest for altering the language of the court-ordered notice, characterizing it as an attempt to misrepresent the court's stance on discrimination. He deemed the alteration an effort by Southwest to appear as if it had received a "badge of honor" from the court, certifying that it did not discriminate, which contradicted the court's intent.

As part of the sanctions, Judge Starr ordered three of Southwest's in-house attorneys to undergo "religious liberty training" provided by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit organization.

Carter is seeking approximately $180,000 in legal costs, including attorney fees, expenses, and other costs. Southwest has appealed the ruling, contending that the religious liberty training does not address the core issues of compliance and compensation for Carter. They argue that the ruling exceeds the judge's civil-contempt authority.

If you’ve experienced religious discrimination in your workplace, contact a knowledgeable whistleblower attorney at Kardell Law Group today.