US judge orders Southwest to reinstate flight attendant who sued the airline

Phillip B. Espinasse /

“Bags fly free with Southwest. But free speech didn’t fly at all with Southwest in this case.” 

This is what US District Judge Brantley Starr reportedly told Southwest Airlines (LUV) on December 5, 2022, when he ordered the airline to reinstate a flight attendant who was unfairly dismissed for airing her views against abortion.

Charlene Carter, a former Southwest Airlines (LUV) flight attendant, alleged that the  airline and her union conspired to fire her for expressing opposition to abortion in 2017.

According to the lawsuit, Carter was fired in March 2017 after sending emails and social media messages to former flight attendant union president Audrey Stone. 

Local media reports that Carter called Stone “despicable” for attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. in early 2017.

In July 2022, a Dallas jury ruled in Carter’s favor, ordering Southwest to pay Carter $4.15 million and the union should pay $950,000.

On December 5, 2022, Judge Starr reduced Carter’s $5.1 million jury award to about $800,000 but ordered Southwest Airlines (LUV) to reinstate Carter’s position.

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