The Epoch Times reported this week that a federal judge in Texas has issued a scathing rebuke against Southwest Airlines for firing an employee over her pro-life views.
“Bags fly free with Southwest. But free speech didn’t fly at all with Southwest in this case,” the paper quoted Brantley Starr as saying in his ruling on Tuesday.
Judge says airline’s actions were illegal
“The jury found the Defendants (Southwest Airlines) were grossly intolerant of their flight attendants’ speech in violation of federal law,” Starr went on.
“And, even now, their lawyers continue to hunt for ‘controversial’ social-media posts from Carter instead of pondering their own mistakes and planning a future life free of them,” the judge complained.
The case concerned Charlene Carter, who in 2017 sent a private Facebook message to Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 president Audrey Stone.
Carter wrote to voice her objection to the union’s participation in the national Women’s March, an event which was sponsored by Planned Parenthood, America’s largest abortion provider.
Stone responded by filing a complaint with Southwest Airlines, which promptly fired Carter after two decades of service.
In his ruling, Starr pointed out that “[t]he jury also awarded front [or future] pay, but Carter would rather have her job back.”
“The Court reinstates Carter to her former position … If the Court opted for front pay over reinstatement, the court would complete Southwest’s unlawful scheme. Reinstatement is appropriate,” he insisted.
The judge also awarded Carter $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from Southwest Airlines along with $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages from the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 as well as $150,000 in back pay, and $60,180.82 in prejudgment interest.
Southwest Airlines vows to appeal ruling
Starr then issued a requirement that both Southwest Airlines and the Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 provide copies of his ruling to employees via email and post copies of it in conspicuous places for 90 days.
For its part, Southwest Airlines provided the Times with a statement saying that it is planning to file an appeal of Starr’s decision.
“Southwest Airlines has a demonstrated history of supporting our employees’ rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner,” the company’s statement read.
“We are disappointed with this judgment based on the facts of the case and plan to appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” it added.