By Justin Wm. Moyer
A Muslim employee of a U.S. airline has filed a federal complaint, alleging she was placed on administrative leave after refusing to serve alcohol for religious reasons.
For three years, Charee Stanley has been a flight attendant with Atlanta-based ExpressJet Airlines. But, two years ago, she chose a faith that, since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has often been the subject of controversy in American airports: Islam.
Stanley’s conversion brought an outward change — she started wearing a hijab. But the 40-year-old flight attendant also felt that her new faith prevented her from fulfilling what some might consider a fundamental part of her job: serving alcohol.
So, in June, she asked her supervisor at ExpressJet for a religious accommodation. Flight attendants have many responsibilities — getting passengers seated, performing safety demonstrations, checking overhead compartments. Would it be possible for one of Stanley’s colleagues to serve drinks while she did something else?
Yes, she was told. A supervisor “accommodated Ms. Stanley’s request by directing her to make arrangements with the other flight attendant on duty such that when a customer requests to be served alcohol, the other flight attendant would accommodate that request,” according an Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint Stanley filed last week.
For a while, all went well: “The requested accommodation does not interfere with Ms. Stanley’s performance, is a reasonable religious accommodation and has not caused any undue hardship upon ExpressJet,” according to her complaint.
Yet, in early August, an airline employee filed an internal complaint against Stanley. Stanley was not doing her job when refusing to serve alcohol, the employee alleged, also calling attention to Stanley’s “headdress” and a book she carried with “foreign writings.”
And, late last month, ExpressJet reversed itself. The airline, as explained in Stanley’s complaint, told her “it was revoking its religious accommodation of excluding service of alcohol from her duties.” Stanley was placed on administrative leave without pay for 12 months — “after which her employment would be administratively terminated.” Muslim Flight Attendant