Marli Brown and Lacey Smith filed religious discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Aug. 2021, and were granted ‘right-to-sue’ letters by the department in 2022.
While the Equality Act was being discussed in Congress in early 2021, Alaska Airlines announced their support for the bill – which aims at ending discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, employment, housing, credit and more.
The airline made their announcement on an internal employee message board, and according to court documents, Brown and Smith were ‘compelled by their Christian faith’ to comment on the decision.
According to court documents, Brown commented:
"Does Alaska support: endangering the Church, encouraging suppression of religious freedom, obliterating women rights and parental rights? This act will Force [sic] every American to agree with controversial government-imposed ideology on or be treated as an outlaw. The Equality Act demolishes existing civil rights and constitutional freedoms which threatens constitutional freedoms by eliminating conscience protections from the Civil Rights Act. The Equality act would affect everything from girls’ and women’s showers and locker rooms to women’s shelters and women’s prisons, endangering safety and diminishing privacy. Giving people blanket permission to enter private spaces for the opposite sex enables sexual predators to exploit the rules and gain easy access to victims. This is Equality Act [sic][.]"
The First Liberty Institute, which represents both former flight attendants, says Brown referenced points she read in an article called ’11 Myths about H.R. 5, the Equality Act of 2021,’ posted on the website of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.
Court documents say Smith commented, "As a company, do you think it’s possible to regulate morality?"
Smith’s comment received a reply from Alaska Airlines’ Senior VP of People, Andy Schneider, said in part, "Supporting the Equality Act is not about regulating morality. It’s about supporting laws that allow our LGBTQ+ employees and guests, no matter what state they live in or fly to, to be protected against discrimination."
Court documents say Smith ‘liked’ Schneider’s comment.
Both employees had their comments removed for being ‘discriminatory,’ ‘hateful’ and ‘offensive,’ and were suspended from flight shifts pending an investigation, the First Liberty Institute says. According to court documents, they were shortly after terminated from employment, with little in the way of defense from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) union.
Similar comments posted to Alaska Airlines’ announcement supporting the Equality Act were not removed, as they did not reference religious concerns. Court documents allege that the airline more favorably treated other employees in the same situation, and that they violated their own ‘Three Strikes’ policy by terminating two well-respected flight attendants one what appeared to be their first offenses.
The First Liberty Institute claims "Alaska Airlines would not have terminated [Brown] and [Smith] in the absence of their religion."
"Alaska Airlines 'canceled' Lacey and Marli because of their religious beliefs, flagrantly disregarding federal civil rights laws that protect people of faith from discrimination," said Stephanie Taub with 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. 'Woke' corporations like Alaska Airlines think that they do not have to follow the law and can fire employees if they simply don't like their religious beliefs."
FOX 13 News has reached out to Alaska Airlines for comment.
Read the full complaint below: