An ex-Southwest flight attendant who was terminated from the company in 2017 for engaging in a “pro-life” abortion campaign has successfully sued her union for retaliation and failing to provide adequate representation.
After a six-year legal struggle, Charlene Carter convinced a North Texas jury that the union had unfairly treated her and refused to respect her sincere religious convictions.
Carter has now received a total compensation award from the court of $5.3 million, of which Southwest will be required to pay $4.15 million in back wages and pain and suffering damages. The remaining $1.15 million in compensation must be paid by the union.
Carter was fired in 2017 for alleged workplace bullying and breaking the airline’s social media policy after she sent a barrage of graphic ‘pro-life’ Facebook messages to the flight attendant union’s president.
Carter worked as a flight attendant with Southwest for a considerable amount of time, beginning in 1996 and ending 21 years later. Carter automatically joined the Local 556 Transport Workers Union when she started working for the airline, but in 2013 she became a ‘nonmember objector’ of the union and started to argue that the union should be decertified.
Carter wrote private “pro-life” Facebook messages to Audrey Stone, the head of the local union, in the years before to her termination. After Local 556 members took part in the “Women’s March on Washington D.C.” in 2017, which opposed President Trump’s inauguration and promoted a number of political causes, the tone of these messages abruptly shifted in 2017.
Carter was particularly dissatisfied with the union’s apparent backing of Planned Parenthood, a significant march sponsor. She sent Stone two letters that included a video of an aborted child and stated that the union was “supporting this Murder.”
The films were also released by Carter to her public Facebook account, where she urged her followers to spread them widely because they were murder. God help you those who are pro-abortion thus far!
Southwest contacted Carter for a meeting a few weeks later to go through the Facebook posts. In a letter justifying her termination, she acknowledged transmitting the disturbing videos of aborted fetuses. On March 16, 2017, her employment was terminated because she had broken Southwest’s harassment policy.
After Stone was confronted by an armed process server while living in a crew hotel, 2,000 miles from her home, the lawsuit gained attention in 2020. Southwest believed an airline employee had gained access to its computer systems to distribute private data.
Stone had to be grounded over fears for her safety.
Despite these significant accusations, the jury supported Carter in her conflict with Southwest Airlines and the union.
Even before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, the state of Texas had some of the strictest abortion laws in the United States.