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Tipsheet

Fired Southwest Flight Attendant Awarded $5 Million After Abortion Dispute

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

A federal jury in Texas awarded a former Southwest flight attendant more than $5 million from the airline and her union after the company reportedly fired her over her stance on abortion.

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The lawsuit began In 2017 when longtime flight attendant Charlene Carter sparred with her union president over abortion after she saw flight attendants attend the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. after former President Donald Trump was inaugurated. She believed that union dues were paying for the protest, which was backed by abortion giant Planned Parenthood (via CBS News):

Carter alleged she was fired in March 2017 after complaining to the union president about flight attendants going to a march in Washington, D.C., where more than 500,000 people protested President Donald Trump's positions on abortion and other issues. She believed union dues were paying for an anti-abortion protest.

Carter sent a series of Facebook messages, some containing videos of purported aborted fetuses, to Audrey Stone, who was president of the union at the time. She called Stone "despicable" and said she would be voted out of office.

According to court documents, the airline said it fired Carter because posts on her Facebook page, in which she could be identified as a Southwest employee, were "highly offensive" and that her private messages to Stone were harassing. The airline said she violated company policies on bullying and use of social media.

The jury said Southwest unlawfully discriminated against Carter because of her sincerely held religious beliefs.

Carter, a 20-year veteran of Southwest, said the union did not fairly represent her and retaliated against her for expressing her views. Her lead attorney came from the National Right To Work Committee, which campaigns against compulsory union membership.

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Carter left the union in 2013 when she realized her religious views did not align, but was required to continue paying union fees as a condition of her employment. 

In a statement on Friday, Southwest said that it “has demonstrated history of supporting our employees’ rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner.”

A press release from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation praised Carter’s victory. 

“No American worker should have to fear termination, intimidation, or any other reprisal merely for speaking out against having their own money spent, purportedly in their name, to promote an agenda they find abhorrent,” National Right to Work President Mark Mix said of the verdict. 

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