Muslim ExpressJet Flight Attendant Suspended.. But why?

Muslim ExpressJet Flight Attendant Suspended.. But why?

The newscycle is on a roll lately with some strange (and confusing) airline related stories.

CBS News is reporting on Charee Stanley, an ExpressJet flight attendant, that filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming she was suspended from her job for not serving alcohol, which is against her religious beliefs. And, according to Lena Masri, an attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Michigan, the suspension came after another flight attendant filed “an Islamophobic complaint” that referenced Stanley’s head scarf.

I’m sorry, what does her head scarf have to do with her serving alcohol? I’m confused.. Nonetheless, when Charee Stanley applied to become a flight attendant with ExpressJet she wasn’t practicing Islam. In fact, she converted to Islam about a month after accepting the job with ExpressJet. Being an equal opportunity employer, ExpressJet made a “reasonable accommodation,” as required by law. From what I can infer, the airline’s management allowed Stanley to “work[ing] out an arrangement with her coworkers to accommodate passenger requests for alcohol.” Which we can assume is asking another flight attendant to serve the alcohol to the passenger for her.

First let me say, I’m all for living your own life, practicing whatever religion or praising whatever god you want to – I’m not one to discriminate.. but this situation doesn’t make sense to me. A quick search through ExpressJet’s website uncovers their job description for the flight attendant position and it clear states that duties include:

  • Participate in pre-flight briefings with fellow crew members.
  • Ensure the highest level of safety by inspecting safety equipment, announcing and demonstrating safety procedures and verifying passengers’ compliance with safety regulations throughout all stages of flight.
  • Make passengers feel comfortable by welcoming them aboard the aircraft, assisting with carry-on luggage, providing beverage and snack services, answering questions, providing timely information and accommodating special requests.
  • Provide care for passengers who require special assistance, including unaccompanied minors and passengers with disabilities.
  • Inspect aircraft cabins and order supplies in preparation for each flight.
  • Provide reassurance to passengers during flight delays, rough air, etc.
  • Complete all company required paperwork and reporting in a timely and accurate manner.
  • Direct and assist passengers in the event of an emergency.

From the get-go ExpressJet makes it clear that you’ll be “providing a beverage and snack service,” so allowing Stanley to pass off one of her duties to another flight attendant is actually, in my opinion, a more than reasonable accommodation. So I’m still lost at what the suspension is for and why the news is covering this… But here’s a theory – their job description also states:

Our flight attendants ensure safe and comfortable flights on our fleet of CRJ200 (one flight attendant), CRJ700 (two flight attendants with dual-class service), CRJ900 (two flight attendants with dual-class service), ERJ 135 (one flight attendant) and ERJ 145 (one flight attendant) aircraft.

And one of the few statements Stanley gave read:

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

Ah ha! So, what happens when Stanley is operating a flight on a CRJ200, ERJ135 or ERJ145 and she’s the only flight attendant on board? Do her passengers get less service, options and the airline lose profits because of her religious beliefs? I still think it’s a reasonable accommodation to make when working the CRJ700/900 to ask another crewmember to serve the alcohol but on a flight where you’re the only crewmember.. what would you suggest she do? On those aircraft she may have to serve an alcoholic beverage – which is a duty that was described in the job ad she responded to.

ExpressJet was asked for a comment and said:  “At ExpressJet, 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. As Ms. Stanley is an employee, we are not able to comment on her personnel matters.”

But Marsi disagrees, “ExpressJet close to violate Ms. Stanely’s constitutional rights, placed her on administrative leave for 12 months, after which her employment may be administratively terminated.” They haven’t terminated her yet, so let’s not jump to conclusions, but something is definitely under investigation. I do think there’s more to this story than is being reported. Again, what does her head scarf have to do with her serving alcohol?

What do you think? Should she serve alcohol on the flights in which she is the sole flight attendant? Or, should the airline allow her to skip offering an alcohol selection to her passengers?

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Bobby serves as co-host on the nationally syndicated travel talk show "The Jet Set" and is a Travel Expert for various media outlets including CNN, HLN and The Huffington Post.Bobby also worked as a flight attendant for Republic Airlines, US Airways & Virgin America; officially hanging up his wings in March of 2015 after ten years of flying.

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