Muslim flight attendant who refused to serve alcohol sues airline
Published 12/08/2016 | 16:58
An American Muslim flight attendant has sued her former employer, claiming she was unlawfully suspended because of religious discrimination.
Charee Stanley, a former employee of Atlanta-based ExpressJet, filed the lawsuit through the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a non-profit civil rights and advocacy group.
Stanley converted to Islam shortly after joining ExpressJet, and arranged with her employers that she would be exempt from serving alcohol during flights.
“Once she converted and later explained to her supervisor her issue regarding serving liquor, a reasonable accommodation was made,” said a spokeperson on the CAIR Facebook site. “When a customer asked for alcohol, the other flight attendant served [it] in her place while she served the next passenger. This accommodation worked fine for dozens of flights.”
However, CAIR claims that this understanding was revoked when another flight attendant criticised the arrangement, and another complained about her “reading a book ‘in a foreign language’ during down time”.
Stanley was suspended last summer, shortly after the incident. She now seeks back pay and damages.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the CAIR Michigan chapter, said on the organisation’s social media site that Stanley’s suspension was unlawful. “Under the guise of American law, an American is allowed reasonable accommodation for their religion as it long as it isn’t casing undue hardship.”
Lena Masri, CAIR senior staff attorney, said that the grievance against Stanley contained 'Islamophobic' overtones
"[The situation] obviously was not causing undue hardship because there were two flight attendants and it was moving along smoothly until another flight attendant decided that they had an issue with Ms Stanley not serving alcohol."
ExpressJet said in a statement that it values diversity but cannot comment on specific personnel matters or ongoing litigation.
Stanley filed an initial complaint against ExpressJet in September 2015, just after her suspension. Lena Masri, CAIR senior staff attorney, said at the time that the grievance against Stanley contained “Islamophobic” overtones because it noted that she wore a headscarf and carried a book with “foreign writings”.
In a statement, Ms Masri emphasised the importance of religious freedom. “What this case comes down to is no one should have to choose between their career and religion, and it's incumbent upon employers to provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely.” The lawsuit is ongoing.