Muslim Flight Attendant Suspended: Charee Stanley Suspended For Not Serving Alcohol, Files Federal Complaint

A Muslim flight attendant has been suspended from her job after she refused to serve alcohol to passengers due to her religious beliefs.

According to USA Today, Charee Stanley filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week, after the Atlanta-based airline ExpressJet suspended her from her position.

Stanley has been a flight attendant for three years, but two years ago, she decided to join the Islamic faith, something that has been controversial in American airports since attacks on September 11, 2001. Not only did her new religion change her appearance — she started wearing a hijab — it also changed her outlook on certain behaviors, such as serving alcohol.

As the Washington Post reports, Stanley spoke to her supervisor in June, asking that she receive religious accommodations to perform her work duties. There are many other things, aside from serving drinks, that Stanley could do, including getting passengers seated, performing safety demonstrations, and checking overhead compartments. She asked if she could handle these tasks while one of her fellow flight attendants served the passengers their requested drinks.

A supervisor “accommodated Ms. Stanley’s request by directing her to make arrangements with the other flight attendant on duty such that when a customer requests to be served alcohol, the other flight attendant would accommodate that request,” Stanley’s complaint says.

Stanley said everything went smoothly for a while, and her request did not hinder her performance.

“We know that this arrangement has worked beautifully and without incident and that it hasn’t caused any undue burden on the airline,” said Lena Masri, an attorney with the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

However, in August, an airline employee filed an internal complaint against Stanley, saying that by refusing to serve alcohol, she was not doing her job.

In late August, ExpressJet said they were “revoking its religious accommodation of excluding service of alcohol from her duties,” and then they placed her on administrative leave without pay for 12 months, “after which her employment would be administratively terminated.”

“Her employer instructed her to work out an arrangement with the other flight attendants. Until this date, there was no issue. There was no change in circumstances that would justify ExpressJet Airlines in disciplining her,” Masri said, noting that they said serving alcohol was “not an essential duty or function of flight attendant” when the airline granted her religious accommodation.

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

Masri said that by reversing their decision, the airline is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prevents employers from discriminating against employees for religious reasons.

While he said he could not comment on the particular incident, Jarek Beem, an ExpressJet spokesman, said they are an “equal opportunity employer,” according to the Seattle Times.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Do you think the airline should accommodate Charlee? Leave your comments below.

[Photo by Sorbis /]