Muslim flight attendant sues airline after dismissal for refusing to serve alcohol

Charee Stanley said ExpressJet did not provide ‘reasonable religious accommodation’


Rachael Revesz
New York
Thursday 11 August 2016 16:59
Ms Stanley converted several years ago to Islam but only later found out she was forbidden from serving alcohol
Ms Stanley converted several years ago to Islam but only later found out she was forbidden from serving alcohol

A Muslim flight attendant who was placed on unpaid leave last summer after she refused to serve passengers alcohol is suing the airline.

Charee Stanley, who worked for ExpressJet in Detroit, argued that she was not provided with “reasonable religious accommodation” and was wrongly suspended.

The lawsuit has been filed on her behalf by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Michigan.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the CAIR Michigan chapter, said that Ms Stanley began working at the airline when she was not a Muslim and she did serve alcohol.

She converted to Islam two years ago and later found out it was forbidden to serve alcohol so she went to her supervisor to note her concerns.

Her supervisor reportedly told her she could ask another colleague to serve passengers who wanted an alcoholic beverage.

This accommodation worked out for "dozens of flights", according to Mr Walid.

She was put on 12 months of unpaid leave, however, after another flight attendant complained.

"Under the guise of American law, a American is allowed reasonable accommodation for their religion as it long as it isn’t casing undue hardship," he said.

"So it obviously was not causing undue hardship because there were two flight attendants and it was moving along smoothly until another flight attendant decided that they had an issue with Ms Stanley not serving alcohol."

Lawyer Lena Masri said last year that the complaint against Ms Stanley had "Islamophobic" overtones as her client wore a headscarf and carried a book with "foreign writings” and these two things were specifically mentioned in the complaint.

"The person making the complaint, it’s very obvious that they had animus towards Muslims and Islam," added Mr Walid.

Ms Stanley told WWTJ news: "I don't think I should have to choose between practising my religion properly or earning a living."

The court case follows Ms Stanley’s complaint filed last year with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Commission reportedly dismissed her case without investigating whether ExpressJet broke the law.

Ms Stanley is suing for compensation including back pay and other damages.

A spokeswoman for ExpressJet told The Independent: "We embrace and respect the values of all of our team members. We are an equal opportunity employer with a long history of diversity in our workforce.

"As Ms Stanley is an employee, we are not able to comment on personnel matters nor can we comment at this time on any ongoing litigation."

The lawsuit follows various high profile cases from evangelical Christians who have refused to do certain things including issue gay marriage licences - such as a Kentucky probate clerk called Kim Davis - on the grounds of their religious beliefs. Ms Davis, a public official, spent several days in jail before a judge ordered her release.

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