I watched an interview on CNN this weekend with Lena Masri, the attorney for Charee Stanley, which had me ready to shut off the television by the time it was over. Stanley is the recently converted Muslim flight attendant who was suspended from her job because she refused to serve alcoholic beverages to passengers. Now she’s bringing suit to demand her job back and the restoration of the “reasonable religious accommodation” she feels she is owed. (CNN)
“What this case comes down to is no one should have to choose between their career and religion and it’s incumbent upon employers to provide a safe environment where employees can feel they can practice their religion freely,” said Lena Masri, an attorney with Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Stanley, 40, started working for ExpressJet nearly three years ago. About two years ago she converted to Islam. This year she learned her faith prohibits her from not only consuming alcohol but serving it, too, Masri said…
“They placed her on unpaid leave and they advised her that her employment may be terminated after 12 months,” Masri said. “We are requesting that her employment be reinstated and the accommodation of her religious beliefs be reinstated as well.”
A spokesman for ExpressJet declined to discuss Stanley’s complaint.
Reviewing the history of this case, it quickly becomes clear that ExpressJet has bent over backward in trying to accommodate her but she clearly wants to turn this into a politicized battle. At first her supervisors simply asked her to work with other flight attendants and have them take care of the alcohol sales, but not everyone wants to work a shift where their colleague dumps off part of their workload on them. Plus, many smaller flights only have one flight attendant, so someone else would have to take those flights. That clearly wasn’t going to work. ExpressJet also offered to move her into some other type of work where she wouldn’t be involved in serving food and beverages. She refused that as well. In the end it apparently became too much to deal with.
I can’t wait to see how this one works out because there are clearly limits on how far employers have to go in terms of making religious accommodations for their employees where their practices are in direct conflict with the normal functions of the job. And let’s face it… Christians these days are regularly being informed that matters of conscience where their religious beliefs collide with their job functions are no excuse for not doing their jobs. Why would a court allow Stanley to gum up the operation in this fashion when so many others are not?
Besides, there’s an element of common sense here which any judge should be willing to take into account. If you work in the meat department at the grocery store and decide to convert to Islam will you be allowed to tell any customer ordering pork sausage that they need to go stand in line for the next available butcher? Should a devout Christian judge be allowed to stone any women who come before him in a divorce case if they admit to adultery because Leviticus says he must? To take the question to its illogical extreme, if you are a stripper who works bachelor parties and you join the Amish, your boss isn’t going to allow you to do all your dances wearing a cape dress, apron and prayer cap. You need to find a new job.
In a more real world example, a bartender who converts to Islam can’t expect the boss to allow her to stay on the job and only serve soda and water. And in a sense, that’s what Stanley is… part of her job is working as a bartender. Flying is stressful enough, what with worrying about whether or not the plane is going to fall out of the sky or if the guy in the next seat is sizing himself up for an eternity with 72 virgins in the next few minutes. I need a stiff drink, lady, so get on the stick or go find a new line of work.