Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Fired After Criticizing Union President’s Support For Abortion (‘Harassment’)

A Southwest Airlines flight attendant, Charlene Carter, is suing her airline for “retaliation and illegal termination” after she was let go over a disagreement with the then-President of the airline’s flight attendants union.

Audrey Stone, serving as President of Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, participated in the January 2017 Women’s March along with other members of the union “with signs identifying their union affiliation.”

Carter objected to the union’s politics in participating, and the pro-choice position she evinced, so she sent videos “purporting to show aborted fetuses” to the union head. The union boss reported her to the airline for harassment, and Southwest dismissed her that March.

Now things are getting nasty in litigation. Southwest is trying to have her pro bono attorney removed from the case for having served Audrey Stone with a subpeona directly, rather than through counsel, claiming she was now being intimidated by the attorney.

  • He couldn’t have known Ms. Stone’s whereabouts without accessing confidential airline information

    The airline claimed that in order to have access to Stone’s location and hotel information, Gilliam must have been given sensitive information only available to airline employees, and that Stone’s schedule is given an extra layer of security on top of the usual precautions.

  • The process server approached her while armed

For his part the attorney Matthew Gilliam responds that Southwest is merely speculating over how the process server found Stone, and that “two separate parties had provided that information unsolicited to his client” and the process server was armed “in New Mexico, an open carry state,” and so that is not legally objectionable. And even if the process server had acted improperly the complaint is with that process server.

Now, unions take political positions their members disagree with all the time. And members should feel free to communicate with their union leadership over those disagreements. It’s fair to proscribe the time, place and manner for those disagreements – including not sending photos of aborted fetuses over Facebook messenger – but shocking for a union President to secure for the firing of a union member over an internal union matter. This should have been handled internally within the union.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. So now a union is joining the crowd to disavow freedom of speech?
    Why is Southwest acting in concert with the union and doing its bidding, given how this issue is strictly an internal union issue?
    Pathetic how some companies these days “scratch the back” of the union against their own employees.

  2. Why isn’t she suing the union?
    And why is it harassment if she is sending videos of what the other person is doing? Is it harassment sending a serial killer pictures of dead bodies?

  3. If there were no union, this would be an open and shut case of an employee getting fired for sending harassing messages (and yes, if one of my coworkers disagreed with my political stances so much that they would send me pictures of dead bodies repeatedly, I’d consider that harassment).

  4. Clearly harassment! We are no longer the land of the free. More like communist China. Employers are routinely firing employees for matters unrelated to the work place. I hope she wins a HUGE settlement against the airline. Enough already.

  5. SW airlines should have told the Union President, forget it…it’s your business, not ours.
    But SW is involved now that they (SW) fired her.
    If it was nothing the union President would have just laughed at the photos, etc. But the information struck a nerve with the Union President…..she knew deep in her conscious that murder of the unborn was not right. History has shown for thousands of years what happens to societies that worship Baal and turn away from God.
    SW will have to pay ~ $5 million now to keep this woman fired because of her free speech rights. It works TWO ways folks. SW should have fired the Union President for stirring up strife….or just leave her alone persona non grata.

  6. @James:

    RE: “And why is it harassment if she is sending videos of what the other person is doing?”

    The union president was not aborting fetuses so sending her vile photos was harassment. The union president represents a union whose membership is composed of a high percentage of women and what she was doing was advocating for women’s rights and their right to choose. No one is forcing anyone to have an abortion against their will.

  7. @cmorgan – It directly is related to employment – one employee harassing another. Aside from the person the now former employee was harassing – being the Union leader, the Union has nothing to do with it.

    If the former employee had a grievance with the union – she had the right to take it up with the union. Not to spew vulgarities at another employee . (And yes sending disturbing images is a vulgarity and its harassment)

    SW was doing its duty as an employer and terminating an employee that clearly doesn’t understand boundaries.

  8. Comon” I mean it’s not like the pictures were of a human(s)…. andif the fetus isn’t human, why would it be offensives and/or harassment? If she supports abortion, then she shouldn’t have an issue with the pictures. I’m not a vegetarian and I don’t have any issue with pictures of dead cows or pigs….

  9. It’s not as if the attendant was criticizing the president’s personal views, the prez was speaking on behalf of the union.
    I don’t like the recent trend where people with an unpopular opinion lose their livelihood as a result.

  10. cam says: “and yes, if one of my coworkers disagreed with my political stances so much that they would send me pictures of dead bodies repeatedly, I’d consider that harassment”

    Cam you totally hit the nail on the head! The flight attendant sent pictures of dead bodies. The dead bodies of tiny babies who were violently murdered.

    Now to follow your lead, the union president should update her grievance to specifically note that the photos she received were of dead and mutilated children.

    And then think about what she just said before the next march.

  11. The FA sent [images of male/female genitalia | photos of straight/gay people having intercourse | aborted fetuses | insert any type of socially/professionally inappropriate imagery]. The recipient filed a complaint and the company investigated, found the complaint to be credible, and took disciplinary action on the employee.

    Basically that’s what happened. Forget the abortion component. The FA clearly transmitted inappropriate imagery to a targeted individual, and the company did what it was supposed to do when a complaint is filed: investigate and take action.

    The FA shouldn’t have harrased that person, and Southwest did what it needed to do to avoid further potential lawsuit from the union rep.

    No one is censoring anyone. If the FA had a beef with the union rep, she had many other ways to communicate or display her thoughts without harassing that individual.

  12. The Taliban-branch of the Democrat party is out of control. It’s called “free speech” in case anyone’s forgotten what that is.

  13. People seem to refer to freedoms a lot lately. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. A person can say what they want, like a racist rant, or hatred of Christianity, but it doesn’t mean they won’t face repercussions.

  14. DFWSteve you are correct!!! Unions are never a good thing…I wonder how much Ms stone is being paid to do “union work” and the other bennies she gets?? and her Security brigade..

  15. @Too Many

    Are you saying the FA transmitted sexually explicit photos in addition to photos of dead babies?

    Or you are trying to make the point that sending photos of dead babies is harassment in the same way that sending sexually explicit images would be?

  16. @SeanNY2 –
    I am saying regardless of the material the FA (or for that matter, any employee) sends, if the material is deemed inappropriate and a complaint is filed, the company has a responsibility to respond to it.

    Does it matter if it’s dead babies/fetuses, or anything else that would be considered inappropriate? Check any large corporation’s employee handbook and see what’s referenced. There’s always a section related to harassment via all sorts of mediums.

    Why does it get more attention if it’s an abortion related material? The FA harassed another person… actions have consequences.

  17. As a Union employee you have certain rights and privileges, you also pay a fee for those rights and privileges. This fee generally is non negotiable, it comes out of your paycheck before you ever see it, and it’s understood that’s the cost of a better job( unions have done, and continue to make airline jobs better, and that’s a fact). This case is far different in the fact that a Union President got a member fired because they disagreed with her political views.
    The FA involved in this case vehemently disagreed with abortion through personal experience, yet her hard earned money was being used to further an agenda she did not believe in. She objected to that multiple times and was told to pound sand, she used what was available to her to make a point. This Particular FA has stated multiple times she has zero problems with furthering any pro life agenda, she objected to her money being used to further that agenda. At no time was the company (SWA) involved, this was strictly a union matter.
    Because of her beliefs, and also because of a close relationship with management (contrary to a a Unions protections) the union president in an unprecedented move sought to get this FA fired because she disagreed with her beliefs. What ever your stance is, pro life or pro choice, if you are PAYING a Union to have your back, even if your political views diverge, the last thing you do is involve the company to have someone fired who you politically disagree with. This will end up costing SWA millions, and good for her.

  18. @TooMany you view those with whom you disagree as foes or enemies to be vanquished. Intelligent, civil people view a fellow American with a different opinion as someone to be persuaded by civil discourse or, at the last, a provocateur to simply be ignored. You exalt yourself as judge and jury willing to cost someone their livelihood simply because you disagree with them. I pity you, you poor sap. You need a lesson in citizenship. Try James Bryce’s essays as a start.

  19. Yes it’s her freedom of speech to send videos and speak against abortion, but it’s also people have the freedom to either have an abortion or not. Pro-Choice means a choice to either have one or not. Hence the term “choice” now every choice has a consequence and it’s not for us to choose what others want. I am pro-choice even when I was a Republican I was always pro-choice. So freedom does not only apply to one party. If you raise freedom then give everyone freedom. She had a choice to voice in a sane manner, and she started sending horrific graphic picture.
    You all so pro-life, all lives matter but vote against immigrants, lgbtq, racial minorities, Muslims and even poor folks.

  20. @cam I would think that anyone who supports abortion already knows what an aborted baby looks like. If Stone marched in support of it, she should be fully informed. If being confronted by the images was horrifying, I would think she would change her stance. Otherwise, her sole motivation for having Carter fired is political.

  21. I am so disgusted that Southwest disciplines their employees if they do not agree with their forced agendas.This would never happen under Herb!!

  22. Blues- Your comments about pro-life supporters demonstrate that you don’t like certain people because of your pre-conceived notions of many wonderful members of our society, who are pro-life. Almost all of my town members, who work at the local homeless shelter, are pro-life. I find it difficult to fathom that you truly believe such disoriented and unsupported views. Many pro-life folks protest the death penalty, and they are sympathetic to immigrants, and they even have lgbtq and minority friends. Don’t paint with such a broad brush, my friend – that is what is polarizing our country on a daily basis ( much to my disappointment ).

  23. @DFWSteve – Why is dismissing an employee harassing another employee considered vanquishing a foe? It’s ridiculous people are trying to politicize this. Having a different opinion does not protect you from sending harassing emails and communications to a fellow employee. Southwest did NOT disciplie the FA for having pro-life views; Southwest disciplined the FA for harassing another employee.

    The FA who sent unwanted and socially/professionally unacceptable videos/images violated another employee’s rights. The FA purposefully and repeatedly targeted and engaged in harassment. It is not an abortion issue; it is a corporate issue related to HR actions. If the FA had such a beef w/ the participation of the union, take it up with the union through appropriate channels, not single out and harass another employee over it. This is what she was terminated for… Yet people are talking about this as an abortion issue.

    This is just like people talking about not wearing masks as a political statement and an infringement of their rights… They try to make it about something else completely.

  24. @DFWSteve – I’ll also add your response: “you view those with whom you disagree as foes or enemies to be vanquished. Intelligent, civil people view a fellow American with a different opinion as someone to be persuaded by civil discourse or, at the last, a provocateur to simply be ignored. You exalt yourself as judge and jury willing to cost someone their livelihood simply because you disagree with them. I pity you, you poor sap. You need a lesson in citizenship. Try James Bryce’s essays as a start.”

    Are you not in the same position, hypocritically speaking. You defend the FA’s right to be pro-life, yet her actions had no civil discourse. She posted on her co-worker’s personal FB page, sent messages that contained inappropriate imagery and videos, and basically invaded her privacy to shove her pro-life belief down the co-worker’s throat. Yet you find that to be completely acceptable… So it’s OK for a pro-life person to do all that harassment, but when action is taken to admonish the FA, it’s all about vanquishing another person’s thoughts? I pity you… you need a lesson in critical thinking and basic logic.

    How acceptable would it be for an employee to send another employee at a conservative church (or any organization) videos or images of gay sex/porn? Because sending images/videos of dead fetuses/babies are considered inappropriate, just like sending images of nudity and sex, by pretty much all company and civil standards.

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