A Muslim flight attendant for ExpressJet is fighting to be reinstated after she says the airline suspended her for refusing to serve alcohol.
In a complaint filed last week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Charee Stanley said the carrier had revoked a reasonable arrangement made to accommodate her religious beliefs.
Stanley's lawyer, Lena Masri of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter, told The Huffington Post Monday that Stanley approached her superiors in June about how she could avoid serving alcohol to passengers because she recently discovered that Islamic law forbids it.
The airline told her to make a deal with fellow flight attendants so they could provide the beverages, Masri said. The arrangement seemed to be working smoothly until a coworker complained to the airline in early August that Stanley had been delinquent in her duties because she refused to serve the cocktails. The complaint also noted that Stanley "had a book with foreign writings and wore a headdress," CNN wrote.
In late August the airline notified Stanley, an employee of three years who became a Muslim about two years ago, that the accommodation had been revoked. ExpressJet placed her on unpaid leave for 12 months, Masri said. She was also threatened with termination, the lawyer added.
In an interview with HuffPost on Monday, the airline said it could not comment on personnel matters, but offered the following statement: "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."
Masri told HuffPost that Stanley was open to mediation, but if no satisfactory solution is reached, she and her client would consider a lawsuit. In the meantime, Stanley was seeking other employment, the attorney said.
Responding to parallels drawn to the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who cited her religious beliefs in refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Masri said there was no comparison.
Stanley is not a public official, she said. She emphasized that Stanley's request to accommodate her faith was "not at the expense of anyone else." As instructed by her employer, she reached an accord with colleagues so passengers could still get their drinks.
"She got suspended for following the directions," Masri said to HuffPost, adding that "serving alcohol is not a central duty of being a flight attendant."
In summing up the conflict, the attorney told CNN that Stanley was fighting for basic rights: "What this case comes down to is no one should have to choose between their career and religion and it's incumbent upon employers to provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely."
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