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Judge Delays Religious Tolerance Training for Southwest Airline Lawyers

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A federal judge has implemented a 30-day pause on his ruling that mandates Southwest Airlines' legal representatives to undergo religious freedom training organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal advocacy group.

Photo credit: Owen Lystrup

Photo credit: Owen Lystrup

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/24/2023 (9 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Southwest, Airlines, religious, freedom, training, discrimination

U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr has decided to temporarily delay the enforcement of his directive, issued last Thursday. The directive stipulated that three lawyers from Southwest Airlines were required to complete an eight-hour training course provided by ADF within the upcoming month. As reported by Reuters, the judge has initiated this temporary pause as he contemplates a more extended postponement. This extension is being considered as Southwest Airlines appeals the judge's ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Judge Starr issued this order subsequent to a jury's determination that Southwest Airlines had violated the religious freedoms of one of its employees, Charlene Carter, a flight attendant. Carter was terminated from her position at Southwest Airlines after expressing her religious objections to abortion, particularly in relation to the union's endorsement of a Planned Parenthood event.

Initially, the jury awarded Carter $5.1 million as reparation for the discrimination she faced. However, Judge Starr subsequently reduced this amount to $800,000. Furthermore, Southwest Airlines was instructed to reinstate Carter. Alongside these measures, the judge mandated that Southwest Airlines inform its employees that any form of discrimination against flight attendants due to their religious practices and beliefs was impermissible.

In response to this directive, Southwest Airlines issued a statement to its employees asserting that "the court directed us to notify you that Southwest does not discriminate against our employees based on their religious practices and beliefs." Judge Starr, however, deemed this statement non-compliant with his order, as it indicated that the airline "does not" engage in discrimination, instead of clearly stating that it "may not."

As a consequence, Judge Starr held Southwest Airlines in contempt of his order, leading to the issuance of an additional directive. This subsequent order required Southwest to release a statement composed by the court, while also undergoing religious freedom training conducted by ADF. This directive clarified that training the three lawyers from Southwest Airlines who were deemed responsible was the least intrusive method of ensuring compliance with the court's mandate.

The court-authored statement directed Southwest Airlines to rectify its previous communication by acknowledging that the wording "does not discriminate" was inaccurate. The revised statement, as endorsed by the court, reads as follows: "Pursuant to Title VII, Southwest Airlines is prohibited from engaging in discriminatory practices against its flight attendants on the grounds of their religious practices and beliefs, encompassing matters such as those expressed on social media and views related to abortion."

Jim Campbell, the Chief Legal Counsel for ADF, expressed contentment with the organization's role in facilitating the training course for the airline. He emphasized the importance of respecting religious freedom and diverse perspectives within the workplace, asserting that ADF is eager to aid Southwest Airlines in achieving these goals by delivering instruction on pertinent legal principles, including those outlined in Title VII, that prohibit religious discrimination.

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