Pro-Life Former Flight Attendant Wins $5.1 Million Verdict for Wrongful Termination
As the raging national debate over abortion laws continues almost a month after the watershed Dobbs Supreme Court decision, a former Southwest Airlines flight attendant has won a lawsuit against her former employer for wrongful termination over her outspoken pro-life views.
On July 14, a jury at a federal district court in Dallas awarded Charlene Carter $4.15 million in damages against Southwest, as well as $950,000 from Local 556 of the Transport Workers Union. Both the airline and the union plan to appeal the verdict.
“Today is a victory for freedom of speech and religious beliefs,” Carter said in a statement after the verdict was announced.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix, whose organization provided legal representation for Carter, was encouraged by the outcome. “This long overdue verdict vindicates Ms. Carter’s fundamental right to dissent from the causes and ideas that TWU union officials — who claim to ‘represent’ Southwest flight attendants — support while forcing workers to bankroll their activities,” he said in a statement. “No American worker should have to fear termination, intimidation, or any other reprisal merely for speaking out against having their own money spent, purportedly in their name, to promote an agenda they find abhorrent.”
The situation began in 2013 when Carter discovered that she was required to pay union dues to stay employed at Southwest despite having strong objections to the union’s support of abortion. When she began voicing her concerns about the union’s support of the pro-abortion Women’s March in January 2017 in Facebook messages to union president Audrey Stone, who attended the march in Washington, D.C., she was called into a meeting with Southwest management, where she was told that Stone claimed that Carter was “harassing” her. Carter was fired a week later.
Carter’s firing fits a pattern in recent years of employees being terminated for expressing their pro-life views. These include the former CEO of Tripwire Interactive, the head of Oregon Right to Life, and two oncology center workers, among others.
But Carter’s court win may be the beginning of a precedent that favors employees who claim wrongful termination simply for exercising their free speech and religious freedom rights. In February, an Illinois nurse also won her court case after she was fired for declining to refer pregnant mothers for abortions.
Joy Stockbauer, a policy analyst at Family Research Council’s Center for Human Dignity, was heartened by the news. “This brave pro-lifer’s story offers a great example of the victory that can be had when we are willing to stand our ground in the face of injustice,” she told The Washington Stand. “When the opposition seeks to intimidate and destroy, we must respond with courage and an unwavering commitment to the truth. As pro-lifers fight their own battles to speak up for the unborn, they should know that they have an entire movement standing behind them in support.”
Dan Hart is senior editor at The Washington Stand.