Alaska Airlines flight attendant says uniform ‘discriminates’

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A nonbinary Alaska Airlines flight attendant is alleging that the company’s uniform policy discriminates against workers “who do not conform to gender stereotypes,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

“When I am working as a flight-attendant instructor and allowed to wear regular business attire, I am not forced into Alaska Airlines’ ‘male’ or ‘female’ uniform policies — neither of which fit me because I am non-binary,” Seattle-based Justin Wetherell said in an ACLU news release.

“But when I work as a flight attendant, I am forced into one of two standards, often for up to four days at a time. I am willing to follow all of the elements of the uniform policy for professional attire, as I do when I work as an instructor, but I don’t want to be forced into a binary uniform that excludes me and leads to me being misgendered at work,” the seven-year employee added.

The ACLU wrote the letter on behalf of Wetherell, whose gender identity not strictly male or female — and whose gender expression “is fluid” and can change over time.

It argues that the compmay’s uniform policy violates the Washington Law Against Discrimination and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Justin Wetherell said they were "forced" into wearing strictly male or female attire.
Justin Wetherell said they were “forced” into wearing strictly male or female attire.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

“The uniform policy has one set of ‘male’ dress and grooming requirements and another set of ‘female’ dress and grooming requirements,” the letter states.

“Although the uniform policy allows transgender men and transgender women to adhere to the uniform standards that match their gender identity, Alaska Airlines requires all employees to conform to either the ‘male’ or ‘female’ category,” it continues.

“Each uniform is made up of several pieces of clothing that flight attendants can choose from, but flight attendants cannot mix and match ‘male’ uniform pieces and ‘female’ uniform pieces.”

This means people wearing the “male” uniform are not allowed to wear pieces from the “female” uniform, such as the scarf or skirt — or vice versa, the letter explains.

Wetherell filed a discrimination complaint with the Washington State Human Rights Commission, according to Bloomberg News.

Under federal law, workers must generally file bias charges with an administrative agency before they can sue, according to the news outlet.

Alaska Airlines claims it has been a "longtime supporter" of the LGBTQ+ community.
Alaska Airlines claims it has been a “longtime supporter” of the LGBTQ+ community.
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

The US Supreme Court decided last year that Title VII prohibited workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender status, but didn’t specifically address dress codes and other related LGBT matters, according to Bloomberg.

“Policies such as the Alaska Airlines uniform policy, under which a woman faces discipline or disadvantage for dressing in a manner that would be permitted if she were a man, (or a man faces discipline or disadvantage for dressing in a manner that would be permitted if he were a woman) discriminate ‘but for’ the employee’s sex within the meaning of Title VII,” the ACLU letter states.

In a statement on its website, Alaska Airlines wrote that it “has been a longtime supporter” of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We have been a leader in the industry when it comes to inclusivity in our uniform and grooming standards, which have been informed by our employees and developed in accordance with federal and state laws,” the airline said.

“Over the past year, we have introduced several new guidelines designed to give our flight attendants more inclusive uniform options. Since early 2020, all flight attendants have been able to order any pant or parka style and have been able to select the uniform kit of their choice, regardless of gender identity.”

The company also said that starting later this month, it will allow its workers to order their uniforms online, which will help “greater ease of choice in the uniform selection process,” it claimed.

“We will also implement new gender-neutral hair policies that will allow all flight attendants to wear their hair down when not handling food, regardless of gender,” the airline added.

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