Represented by First Liberty Institute, a law firm that defends religious liberties, the charge was filed in the Seattle field office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Aug. 18 on behalf of the former flight attendants.
The federal complaint alleges that the company unfairly retaliated against employees Lacey Smith and another flight attendant, who wished to remain anonymous, after they questioned the company's backing of the passage of the Equality Act. The former employees' union is also named in the complaint, as it was accused of joining in the company's agenda against the employees.
According to First Liberty Institute, the company discriminated against the two flight attendants because of their "Christian beliefs."
The two had been fired for asking questions about the company's promotion of the Equality Act. Known as House Resolution 5, it was introduced to Congress in February. The House of Representatives passed the Act by a vote of 224 to 206 on Feb. 25. The bill then moved on to the Senate where its fate is uncertain.
President Joe Biden said the bill would be one of his top legislative priorities during his first 100 days in office. On his first day as president, he signed an Executive Order on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation.
The bill itself prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment housing, credit and the jury system. It more specifically defines and includes sex, sexual orientation and gender identity among prohibited categories of discrimination and segregation.
The proposed legislation would penalize Americans who don't affirm gender ideology; would compel individuals to speak messages with which they disagree; would close down charities unless they relinquished their religion; would allow for males who call themselves females to participate in sports events designated for girls or women; would coerce medical professionals to perform body-mutilating surgeries when told to; would jeopardize parental rights; and would "enable sexual assault."
Alaska Airlines had posted its endorsement of the volatile Equality Act on an internal message board in early 2021, and the two flight attendants responded with their concerns about its impact on religious liberty and more.
Smith and the other flight attendant, both employed by the airline at the time, accepted the company's invitation to comment and raised various questions about the company's support and the bill itself. They were fired.
"I was shocked that the airline I loved working for fired me for asking a question about something the airline asked us to support," Smith said. The former employee had worked there for almost eight years. "I thought my question would receive the same level of respect that I give to others. It's frightening to think that Americans can lose their jobs for simply asking questions about important issues."
The company said in a notice of discharge for Smith, that "defining gender identity or sexual orientation as a moral issue is a discriminatory statement," according to First Liberty Institute. That was after Smith asked: "As a company, do you think it's possible to regulate morality?" Smith's comment was subsequently taken down.
Meanwhile, the other dismissed employee reportedly asked: "Does Alaska support endangering the Church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating women rights and parental rights?" (Related: Biden pledges to gut religious freedom protections, saying they give 'hate' a 'safe harbor.')
"The corporate 'canceling' of our clients by Alaska Airlines makes a mockery of laws that protect religious Americans from employment discrimination," said David Hacker, director of litigation for First Liberty Institute.
"It is a blatant violation of state and federal civil rights laws to discriminate against someone in the workplace because of their religious beliefs and expression. Every American should be frightened if an employer can fire them for simply asking questions based on their religious beliefs about culturally important issues."
The complaint filed to the EEOC stated: "Our clients are firmly committed to equality and diversity and always treating others with kindness and respect. They simply sought clarification of the airline's position, yet after asking their questions in response to the company's invitation, they were fired. In firing our clients, Alaska Airlines discriminated against them on the basis of religion, perpetuated a hostile work environment, failed to grant them a religious accommodation allowing them to express their opinions on the same basis as other protected classes, and retaliated against them."
The airline specifically signaled "that people of faith are not welcome" by creating a conversation forum about the Equality Act, but then closing that forum "to people of faith who are concerned about religious discrimination."
That, the complaint said, amounts to "hostility toward people of faith."
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