ACLU Threatens To Sue Airline For Making Flight Attendants Choose A Male Or Female Uniform

I have a hard time getting excised over ‘culture war’ sorts of issues. I get the stakes involved in bathroom bills and transgendered participation in high school sports, but those aren’t my priorities. They’re how Republicans win elections in the short-term, and how they lose out over time – the way that then-Governor Pete Wilson largely destroyed the Republican Party of California hitching his career to Proposition 187 (“Save Our State” initiative).

But culture issues aren’t going away, they’re only expanding, this time to Alaska Airlines which is being threatened with a suit by the ACLU for making flight attendants choose between a male or female uniform.

While the TSA began requiring passengers to select a gender as part of their security identification system, passengers can now choose ‘unspecified’ or ‘undisclosed’ just as many states now offer an “X” for gender on their drivers licenses. But flight attendants can’t choose X when selecting a uniform to wear.

Although Alaska recognizes and accommodates transgender workers, its rules ignore the rights and needs of employees who don’t see themselves as either male or female or are gender fluid.

…The ACLU is representing Justin Wetherell, an Alaska Airlines flight attendant and instructor who identifies as non-binary and feels trapped by Alaska’s current uniform policies.

…“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.”

The flight attendant wants to pick some pieces of the male uniform and some from the female uniform, but that’s not consistent with the airline’s branding and image standards. The ACLU further complains that in addition to discriminating against non-binary flight attendants, the uniform standards “also harms any flight attendant who does not fit Alaska Airlines’ preferred image of either male or female.”

When Delta rolled out its famous ‘red dress’ for female flight attendants as an option (before the current ‘passport purple’) unions complained that the ‘sexy’ red dress wasn’t offered in plus-sizes, and pilots evaluated female Delta flight attendant figures based on whether or not they were “RDQ” or ‘Red Dress Qualified’). The archetype here is the flight attendant made famous by the airline’s safety video, Deltalina.

In the “Love Airlines” case Southwest claimed the right to hire only attractive young women as flight attendants in order to appeal to what was then mostly male business travelers. A federal court determined that the essence of the Southwest Airlines business was transportation not sexual allurement, so their employment policy was illegal sex discrimination. (On the other hand a business that was explicitly sexual in nature could discriminate in this way.)

Since flight attendants are there ‘primarily for your safety’ I’m not sure how much image matters anymore at U.S. airlines. On the other hand, discrimination rules aren’t as well developed in most jurisdictions when it comes to addressing non-binary issues. I’ll defer to those who know the relevant law to evaluate the merits of the ACLU claim but as a policy matter I wouldn’t push the button for it.

Fortunately this may be less of a political issue and left largely to the legal arena because Alaska Airlines is headquartered in Washington State, though it could still wind up on Tucker Carlson Tonight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Good news/Bad news situation for UA-NYC. He can now wear his preferred female uniform, but he still looks hideous.

  2. This guy is disillusion to think that people will “understand” him better if he is allowed to wear a dress. The woke crowd loves to believe that “feelings” trump everything else.

  3. Why made things complicated. Just look down and what you see that is your gender. What gender you think you are thats is different story..Easy.

  4. If he doesn’t want to follow the rules of the airline, he can go work somewhere else. Stop catering to every damn crybaby.

  5. So about a decade ago, when the gay marriage movement was at its peak, I had a person tell me that transgender would be the next big movement – and sure enough, here it is, and I think most people can see which direction we’re headed. There Always seems to be some “civil rights” movement being pushed by the government to fire up the masses, so, serious question, what do people think the next civil rights movement is? Is there a subset of the population who we may deem as socially unacceptable or undesirable at this point in time, but whose “rights” we will be fighting for next?

  6. This is great. I love seeing this stuff taken to extreme. Welcome to the new woke world order.

    Here’s another. I’m a guy. If I get patted down by TSA or security overseas a guy does it. How do I know he isn’t gay and rather enjoys running his hands on me and hefting my package. Same for you ladies. Or it could be a transgendered guy identifying as a woman, running his hands in you.

  7. Let ’em all wear ripped jeans, sneakers (without socks) of any color, tee shirts with any message desired (especially if advertising other airlines), cockpit crew to wear baseball caps (preferably backward). 2-3 days beard growth allowed, for that casual look.

  8. I wonder how david sleeps at night, thinking about the multitudes of hands groping packages.
    Is it getting hot in here???

    It’s interesting how these words such as woke and canceling get co-opted by the Q-nut repubs because they’re too simplistic to think for themselves.
    If your p-p doesn’t want go into the vjj then we must cancel all you woke babyeaters.

  9. What’s the next civil rights movement, Vijay asks?

    How about we fight for people who look like Vijay to stay in the US past their visas? Or does Vijay not belong to a minority group? Weren’t you the guy helping me waive my Amex late fee?

  10. Alaska Airlines should nip any lawsuit in the bud. They should stop calling it male and female uniforms. Call them Category 1 and 2. The troublemaker can choose which category to wear. With that, men can wear the woman’s uniform and vice versa.

  11. Right!!

    We should stop calling flight attendants “He” or “She”. They only deserve to be called “It”.

  12. Why do I feel Gary is shilling for a job at MSNBC? The entire first paragraph has nothing to do with the story — just bloviating politics. Is it any wonder that this blog has become a site for ugly name calling with the occasional useful information on points and miles.

  13. It’s all just something to complain about. Unions and employees in general never seem happy with few exceptions. It’s like having a conversation on facebook or twitter. There is always someone there to complain. Much like the comments section in blogs actually. Heck, I’m complaining right now I guess. As much as I disagree with the ridiculous transgender-like issues or progressive agenda I can agree with much of what you point out however I would replace “Republicans” with “RINO Republicans” in your opening statement. I actually agree with much of @Vijay said. The transgender movement is the new Gay Marriage movement. We can only guess what is next except to say that it will likely move along sexual or racist lines is the best guess. Sexual relations with children, legalized poly marriage, legal unions with pets, reparations? Sure sounds crazy now but just wait. Personally, I feel that we have high priority first world problems than dress codes.

  14. It’s D-Day. I wonder how many boys would identify as girls if they knew they were heading to Normandy. The 21st Century is not working out well so far.

  15. Funny, I though Proposition 187 had to do with illegal immigration and prohibiting illegal immigrants from using taxpayer benefits, but now Gary has leff me woke that it really had to do with culture wars, not squandering taxpayer money.

    On November 8, 1994, 59 percent of California voters approve Proposition 187, banning undocumented immigrants from using the state’s major public services. Despite its wide margin of victory, the ballot measure never takes effect. Democrats played the court card.

  16. @Pete showing himself as the true racist in the comments section here (but no! That’s impossible! Dems aren’t racist!)

    Might wanna re-read your comment. Not only did you assume a commenter was a minority based off his name, you then followed it up with straight lies.

    I work in visa/immigration law in Miami. White folks from the UK, France, wherever have the same issues of not being able to obtain visas and extensions as minorities do. It’s a question of policy, not racism.

  17. You bigots above are too stupid to understand what it means to be non binary. U call anyone who respects other people’s rights woke. It’s because of your bigotry that the ACLU is needed more than ever. U make fun of people choosing their sexual identity because you r bigots. How come u vote vote a man who mocks the disabled, brags about grabbing women by their genitals and mocks the disabled?

  18. Easy Peasy!,

    The simple solution that’s ratify everyone all the time is have Alaska Air become the first and only US airline to have ALL FAs dress in kilts and stockings! That way, no one is mis identified nor left out, and they all have matching uniform wardrobes!

  19. @Pete

    “Can’t think for themselves”. Are you serious? You can fairly say that many conservative people lack empathy or tact in engaging and treating people who identify as transgender, which was also true for homosexual tendencies and same sex marriage.

    However the “not thinking” part clearly falls in the court of those who uncritically and unscientifically (meaning empirically derived) support transgender ideology. Back when the debate around homosexuality was larger, something no mainstream media outlet ever talked about was how evolutionary science, homosexuality cannot be consistently passed down because of genetic fitness. People who loved to talk about science and facts, conveniently neglected concrete facts. Just ask any evolutionary biologist.

    However with the transgender debate, the science is even easier – genetically men have XY and women have XX. Obviously there are the .01% aberrations to this and those genetic aberrations are full fledged humans too who deserve dignity and respect. However, you cannot negate science and still claim to be “thinking”. A person can make a choice about how they want to think and act and be perceived by other people, but that doesn’t change biological fact.

    Yes many commenters can be more compassionate and tactful and obvious internet forums are not the place to find such things (as Gary has mentioned many times in the past) and it’s fair to call them out on their callousness or narrow-mindedness. However let’s also call people who reject science and logic for what they are – self-deceptive at best, but also deluded and partisan.

  20. Does anybody ever stop and THINK before making such asses of themselves? The ACLU surely must have some real issues to deal with somewhere. You wear the uniform that’s required for your job. If you have hair on your face, don’t wear the dress. Nobody cares about your freaking gender when you’re working a flight. Here’s the solution to the problem: don’t wear your gender-specific uniform on your days off. There, that’s done.

  21. the only time the aclu ever deemed one guilty and claimed they would never defend that person, and they would defend anyone/anything, was Kavanaugh. It’s enough to make Helen Keller speechless.

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