Religion

Muslim Flight Attendant Says She Was Suspended After Refusing To Serve Alcohol

| by Jared Keever

A Muslim flight attendant in Michigan has filed a complaint against ExpressJet Airlines with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming she was suspended from her job due to her religious beliefs.

Charee Stanley, who converted to Islam about a month after becoming a flight attendant with the airline, filed the complaint with the help of Lena Masri, an attorney for the Michigan chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations, or CAIR, WWJ News reported.

Masri told The Detroit News that Stanley had worked out an arrangement with ExpressJet in which other flight attendants would serve alcohol to passengers on Stanley's flights, since serving alcohol is against Stanley's religious beliefs.

That arrangement worked until Aug. 25.

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Masri told WWJ that the airline put Stanley on administrative leave after another flight attendant filed “an Islamophobic complaint” that referenced Stanley’s head scarf.

“We notified ExpressJet Airlines of its obligation under the law to reasonably accommodate Ms. Stanley’s religious beliefs,” Masri said at a news conference Tuesday, according to WWJ. “Instead, ExpressJet chose to violate Ms. Stanley’s constitutional rights, placed her on administrative leave for 12 months after which her employment may be administratively terminated.”

Dawud Walid, executive director of CAIR-Michigan, told The News on Monday — before the EEOC complaint was filed — that his organization had tried to resolve the issue with the airline.

“There was outreach that was done to the company,” he said. “Their response was not positive.”

ExpressJet did not have a comment for The News on Monday as the complaint had not yet been filed. 

Jarek Beem, spokesman for the Atlanta-based airline, issued a statement to WWJ on Tuesday.

“At ExpressJet, we embrace and respect the values of all of our team members,” Beem said. “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 her personnel matters.”

Stanley told WWJ she didn’t think being placed on leave was fair. 

“I don’t think that I should have to choose between practicing my religion properly or earning a living,” she said. “I shouldn’t have to choose between one or the other, because they’re both important.”

Sources: WWJ News, The Detroit News

Photo credit: Travis Wise/Flickr CC, Christopher Doyle/Flickr CC