Judge Orders Airline to Rehire Flight Attendant

(NewsGlobal.com)- On Monday, a federal judge in Texas cut the $5.1 million jury award to a fired flight attendant to around $800,000 but ordered Southwest Airlines to rehire the woman.

Southwest Airlines flight attendant Charlene Carter sued the airline and her union after she was fired from her job alleging they conspired against her for expressing opposition to abortion.

A Dallas jury ruled in Carter’s favor in July, deciding that the airline should pay Carter $4.15 million and the union should pay $950,000.

In her ruling on Monday, US District Judge Brantley Starr said she was reducing the $5.1 million award to comply with federal limits on punitive damages that companies can be required to pay.

Judge Starr reduced the jury award to $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from Southwest and $300,000 from the union, plus $150,000 in back pay and around $60,000 in interest.

In her lawsuit, Carter claimed that she was fired from her job after sending strongly-worded messages to the president of the flight attendants’ union after the official attended the January 21, 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. In her messages, Carter called the union president “despicable.”

Shortly after sending the messages, Southwest summoned Carter to a meeting and later fired her.

In ordering Southwest to rehire Carter, Judge Starr referenced a line from the airline’s advertising campaign, writing “Bags fly free with Southwest. But free speech didn’t fly at all in this case.”

The judge also ordered both the airline and the union to email the jury’s verdict and her decision to all members of the union and to post the documents in conspicuous places for 60 days.

Starr also forbid both Southwest and the union from discriminating against the airline’s flight attendants based on their religious beliefs and practices, “including – but not limited to – those expressed on social media and those concerning abortion.”

In her order, Starr also said both entities must “reasonably accommodate” the “sincerely-held religious beliefs, practices, and observances” of Southwest’s flight attendants.