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Former flight attendants file suit against Alaska Airlines, alleging they were fired for their religious beliefs on LGBTQ issues


Flight attendants Lacey Smith and Marli Brown were allegedly fired after posting comments on an Alaska Airlines article supporting the Equality Act, and this week the two have filed suit, claiming they were terminated for their religious beliefs.

Quick Facts

On February 25, 2021, Alaska Airlines posted an “Alaska’s World” post to its employee portal announcing its support for the Equality Act. Alaska’s World posts are required reading for flight attendants, and they are encouraged to discuss any concerns in the comments. Brown and Smith are both Christians and had serious concerns about the Equality Act, which would have made sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes in every area, barring even religious organizations from discriminating. This would have also required religious organizations to hire people whose views oppose their own and would have opened women’s spaces to men.

Lacey Smith wanted to know more about her employer’s views and if they thought it was appropriate to force their views on others. She posted one comment saying, “As a company, do you think it’s possible to regulate morality?” Seventeen employees “liked” her comment. She received a response saying,

Supporting the Equality Act is not about regulating morality. It’s about supporting laws that allow our LGBTQ+ employees and guests, no matter what state they live in or fly to, to be protected against discrimination. Our values are our guide, and we strongly believe that doing the right thing and being kind-hearted require us to support this act. As we said above, we aren’t the kind of company that stands by and watches — we’re going to use our voice and be a leader on these issues. We also expect our employees to live by these same values. Our differences are to be respected. As stated in our People Policies, harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated.”

Marli Brown researched the Equality Act and was troubled by what she found. She posted a comment asking if the company supported endangering the church and women, citing the Equality Act’s provisions. Both Brown and Smith thought their comments were well within the guidelines, which say, “Our differences make us better when we support and respect each other, allowing each of us to be who we are. Comments are here for us to openly and constructively share ideas, ask respectful questions, and understand one another and our company. You can disagree respectfully.”

The rules also claim to operate by a “three strikes and you’re out” policy, saying, “If a comment doesn’t follow the rules, it will be removed at the discretion of the Corporate Communications team. If three of your comments are deleted, we will block you from future commenting.”

Brown and Smith weren’t given three strikes and they weren’t banned from commenting, but they were suspended that day and summarily fired. Earlier this week, they filed suit in federal court against both Alaska Airlines, Inc., and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).

Their complaint argues that the two weren’t fired for poor job performance. Smith, in fact, had received so many positive comments from customers she had been awarded a service pin, while Brown had received six Golden Service Awards for excellence in service and had been featured on the same “Alaska’s World” platform less than two months before her firing, where she was lauded for exemplifying Alaska Airlines’ values.

Smith said that the company fired her because by “asking the question she was such a bad person that it merited firing me.” She alleges that she was fired for her character.

First Liberty Institute, which filed the suit on behalf of Brown and Smith, claims there is a pattern of Alaska Airlines’ disregard for religious belief. In addition to its visible advocacy for LGBTQ+ issues, the company has repeatedly left out religion in its diversity statements despite the inclusion of religious Americans as a protected class in federal law. For example, on February 18, 2021, Alaska Air Group, which holds Alaska Airlines, released a statement on its commitment to a more inclusive workforce. The statement reads, “At Alaska, we believe every person deserves respect regardless of race, ethnicity, capability, age, gender or sexual orientation.” Missing from this and other statements was religion.

First Liberty noted,

“Despite Alaska Airlines’ claimed commitment to an inclusive culture and its frequent invitations to employees to dialogue and express a diversity of perspectives, Alaska Airlines created a work environment that is hostile toward religion, and AFA reinforced that company culture. Alaska Airlines and AFA cannot wield their social advocacy as a sword to unlawfully discriminate against religious employees and instead must remain mindful of their legal obligation to ‘do the right thing’ towards all employees, including religious employees. The Court must hold Alaska Airlines and the AFA accountable for their discrimination.”

If the allegations are true, this is a blatant violation of federal law with an employer firing two employees for disagreeing on an issue of policy and morality due to their religious beliefs. If the company believed in equality and inclusion, it would not fire high-quality employees who disagree with the company on such issues nor would it exclude religion from the classes that it does not discriminate against. While standing up for discrimination against the pretend class of gender identity, the company has openly discriminated against the real and protected class of religion. As a result, both Brown and Smith should prevail in court.

As 2 Timothy 4:3 (NASB) says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires.” Groups like Alaska Airlines are angered by sound doctrine and objective truth, so despite their supposed commitment to tolerance, they will not endure opposition. Christians must continue to stand for the truth and their religious beliefs regardless of what others say and even when they are threatened with the loss of their livelihood.

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