Groundbreaking Consent Decree Requires Alaska Airlines to Change Discriminatory Gendered Uniform Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of Washington
April 27, 2023 11:59 am

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SEATTLE — The ACLU, the ACLU of Washington, and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office have secured a groundbreaking consent decree against Alaska Airlines, requiring Alaska Airlines to remove all gendered restrictions from its uniform policy for flight attendants and to require additional training on gender identity and gender expression. This consent decree favorably resolves the administrative complaint filed by the ACLU and the ACLU of Washington on behalf of Justin Wetherell, a nonbinary and gender fluid flight attendant and flight attendant instructor at Alaska Airlines.

As a flight attendant, Wetherell has been forced to comply with Alaska Airlines’ gendered uniform and grooming policies that were grounded in sex stereotypes and conflicted with their nonbinary gender identity and fluid gender expression.

“I am incredibly relieved and happy to put this process behind me,” said Justin Wetherell, an Alaska Airlines flight attendant since 2014. “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.”

“At a time when the rights of transgender and nonbinary people are under a seemingly endless legislative attack across the country, it is critical that we remain committed to enforcing the strong legal protections that currently exist,” notes Malita Picasso, staff attorney at the ACLU LGBTQ & HIV Project. “This consent decree should put those who would discriminate against us on notice that we will continue to demand justice for our community. Nonbinary people deserve to show up to work as their full and authentic selves. We are grateful to have helped Justin deliver that message to Alaska Airlines.”

“Justin Wetherell has ensured nonbinary and transgender employees in the State of Washington will feel safer, more comfortable, and accepted at work,” said Taryn Darling, ACLU of Washington senior staff attorney. “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.”

On December 30, 2020, Justin Wetherell, through the ACLU and the ACLU of Washington, filed a complaint against Alaska Airlines with the Washington State Human Rights Commission (Commission). In September 2022, the Commission concluded its nearly two-year investigation based upon Wetherell’s allegations and issued a reasonable cause finding of discrimination against Alaska Airlines over its policy requiring flight attendants to conform to a rigid set of gendered dress and grooming standards. This was followed by a complaint filed on behalf of the Commission by the Washington state Attorney General.

Under a consent decree filed today, Alaska Airlines will:

  • Change its uniform policy to remove all gendered restrictions and language on uniform pieces, facial hair, jewelry, and makeup.
  • Provide additional training to Alaska Airlines employees on federal and state civil rights protections and on gender identity and gender expression.
  • Pay $70,000 in monetary compensation to Justin and $40,000 in attorneys’ fees to the ACLU and the ACLU of Washington.

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