As part of an ongoing court struggle with the state of Washington and a flight attendant who does not identify as a man or female, Alaska Airlines has decided to do away with conventional male and female uniform criteria.
Alaska Airlines Removed All Gender Restrictions on Flight Attendant Uniforms
Justin Wetherell is a nonbinary flight attendant and flight attendant instructor at Alaska Airlines. As a flight attendant, they have been required to comply with Alaska Airlines’ uniform and grooming policies that are grounded in outdated sex stereotypes and conflict with Justin’s nonbinary gender identity and fluid gender expression.
Wetherell outlined the issue as follows:
“When I work as a flight attendant, I am forced into one of two standards, often for up to four days at a time. I am willing to follow all of the elements of the uniform policy for professional attire, as I do when I work as an instructor, but I don’t want to be forced into a binary uniform that excludes me and leads to me being misgendered at work.”
Wetherell sued Alaska Airlines with the support of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Washington State Human Rights Commission, claiming the airline’s separate uniform policies for men and women violated state anti-discrimination legislation. This legislation “permits all employees to dress and groom professionally consistent with their gender identity and expression.”
After negotiations with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, a consent decree (similar to a settlement agreement) was issued earlier this week. The court ordered Alaska Airlines to pay Wetherell $70,000 in damages and the ACLU $40,000. Alaska will also change its uniform policy to eliminate any references to or limitations on facial hair, jewelry, or cosmetics based on a person’s gender.
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Alaska denies any judicial win or defeat and claims its policies have “evolved” further in response to Wetherell’s lawsuit. Wetherell commented in response to the favorable court ruling:
“I am incredibly relieved and happy to put this process behind me. This took far more time than I expected and had a severe negative impact on my mental and emotional health.”
“However, I would do it again in a heartbeat — I truly believe the time is always right to do what is right. This is the right thing for me, for Alaska Airlines, and for many other nonbinary, transgender, and gender non-conforming people. This victory sets the groundwork for other similarly affected individuals to have an easier time fixing discriminatory policies.”
Wetherell’s ACLU lawyer made the following statement:
“Alaska Airlines employees will no longer be subjected to rigid, oppressive uniform policies, and all employees will benefit from additional training ensuring the workplace is respectful, inclusive, and free from discrimination for nonbinary, transgender, and gender fluid people.”
“We thank Justin for the years they spent getting Alaska Airlines to do the right thing. This consent decree will have significant impact, serve as a model for other companies, and send a strong message that we will not tolerate workplace discrimination.”
Alaska has yet to release its updated statewide regulations. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced that Alaska Airlines would abolish all prohibitions on facial hair, jewelry, and cosmetics that are based on gender. Wetherell, who has advocated for this shift for over two years, may now consider his efforts successful.