A jury awarded a former Southwest Airlines flight attendant $5.3 million after she was fired for using social media to express her anti- abortion stance.

Carter was a Southwest Airlines flight attendant for more than two decades. Carter was fired from the airline in March of last year for violating the company's policies on Bullying and Social Media.

Carter paid dues to the TWU Local 556, which she disagreed with. She "resigned" from the union after she realized her beliefs didn't match those of the union. She continued to pay dues as a condition of her employment.

Fast forward to the beginning of next year.

  • Carter complained to the union president about flight attendants going to a march in Washington DC, where more than half a million people protested former President Trump’s position on abortion and other issues
  • Carter wasn’t happy that union dues were being used to attend an anti-abortion rally, and wasn’t happy that flight attendants who wanted to attend were being granted schedule adjustments
  • Carter sent Facebook messages, including some with videos of alleged aborted fetuses, to Audrey Stone, who was the union president at the time
  • Carter called Stone “despicable” and said she would be voted out of office

Carter was fired by Southwest Airlines for violating the company's policies on using social media and being a bully. Southwest said her Facebook posts were offensive and that her private messages were harassing.

Carter has been trying to get legal action against the airline and union for the past five years.

Jury sides with flight attendant

The jury in Texas decided that the former Southwest flight attendant was discriminated against because of her religious beliefs. The jury found that the union retaliated against her after she expressed her views.

Carter will get $5.3 million, which includes $4.15 million from Southwest Airlines and $1.15 million from the TWU Local 556. Some back pay from the airline is included in this.

The airline and union are appealing the decision. Southwest said in a statement that the airline has a demonstrated history of supporting employees' rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner.

Carter made the following statement.

“Today is a victory for freedom of speech and religious beliefs. Flight attendants should have a voice and nobody should be able to retaliate against a flight attendant for engaging in protected speech against her union. I am so humbled and thankful for today’s decision and for everyone who’s supported me these past five years, including the National Right to Work Foundation.”

Bottom line

A former Southwest flight attendant has been awarded damages after a lengthy legal battle. Southwest claims that the flight attendant violated the company's social media policy with her public and offensive anti-abortion posts, and that she was also accused of harassing the union president, after union dues were used to attend a rally in Washington DC.

Obviously abortion has become an even hotter topic following the Supreme Court's recent ruling, so I don't want to go down that rabbit hole in this context.

If you leave the union, does the union have to represent you even if you don't pay dues? What are the consequences of leaving the union?

I want to know if an appeal is successful or if this person and her lawyers will walk away with $5+ million.