Charee Stanley alleges she was wrongly suspended by the airline for requesting she not have to serve alcohol to passengers in compliance with her religion
A Muslim flight attendant who made headlines last year has sued her employer, ExpressJet, alleging that she was wrongly suspended by the airline for requesting she not have to serve alcohol to passengers.
The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair-MI) filed the lawsuit in Michigan’s eastern district court last week on behalf of Charee Stanley.
Stanley began working for ExpressJet in 2013, around the time she converted toIslam, according to court documents. On her first day of the job, she requested that she be allowed to wear a hijab. That request was granted.
As Stanley continued to learn about her new religion, she “discovered that the Islamic proscription on consuming alcohol also extended to the act of serving alcohol to others” in 2015, the documents state.
She asked her employers if other flight attendants on duty could serve alcohol while she perform other tasks. Her employer approved and Stanley coordinated with her coworkers. “This arrangement worked smoothly and without causing any problems,” the suit states.
The suit claims that another flight attendant complained about Stanley’s hijab, books in Arabic and refusal to serve alcohol. In August of last year, Stanley was told to either resign or serve alcohol.
Stanley filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Detroit last year. An investigation by EEOC was inconclusive, but granted Stanley a right to sue. The EEOC was unable to comment on the investigation.
Stanley’s initial complaint received widespread attention and prompted debate. Many contrasted her with Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage certificates to gay couples on religious grounds. The two stories emerged around the same time. Davis, who was sued and jailed for six days, was allowed to return to work provided she did not interfere with the issuance of marriage licenses.
The lawsuit states that ExpressJet is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because the airline did not provide a reasonable accommodation for Stanley’s religious beliefs. It seeks reinstatement of Stanley to her job, payment for economic, emotional and punitive damages, as well as compensation for attorney’s fees.
“Employers are obligated to provide reasonable accommodations of the religious beliefs of their employees,” said Cair-MI legal director Lena Masri in a press release on Tuesday. “ExpressJet wrongfully revoked the religious accommodation it directed Ms. Stanley to follow, and retaliated against her for following it by wrongfully suspending her employment.”
According to the Associated Press, ExpressJet said in a statement that “it values diversity but cannot comment on specific personnel matters or ongoing litigation”.
ExpressJet is a Georgia-based airline that is partnered with American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.
The Guardian has reached out to Cair Michigan and ExpressJet for comment.