Nonbinary Flight Attendant Fights Dress Code via ACLU, Decries 'Constant Misgendering' Exacerbating 'Depression'

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

There used to be men and women, but that looks to be falling apart.

And with it will surely go men’s and women’s clothing.

To a degree, we’re already there:

Hence, an employee’s complaint against Alaska Airlines.

A flight attendant’s decrying discrimination of those “who do not conform to gender stereotypes.”

On June 4th, “ACLU LGBT Project” attorney Joshua A. Block fired off a letter to the company’s senior vice president on behalf of Justin Wetherell.

“Justin’s gender identity is non-binary,” the missive makes clear, and “Justin’s gender expression is fluid.”

And this just in: Justin’s not just in a plane at work. He/she/they’s not only a flight attendant, but an instructor.

When working as the latter, Justin gets to gear up with “appropriate business attire while dressing and grooming in a manner that is neither typically male nor female.”

However, being in planes is plain problematic:

Alaska Airlines requires Justin to adhere to an inflexible uniform policy that forces employees to conform to rigid gender stereotypes.

Don’t assume Alaska’s frozen in time: It allows transgender individuals to dress according to the sex of their self-perception.

Nonetheless, Justin doesn’t consider themself one of those selves.

[A]laska Airlines requires all employees to conform to either the “male” or “female” category.

What if your arms are female, but your legs are male? What if your neck feels feminine, but your feet manifest as macho?

At the moment, you’re out of luck with Alaska:

[F]light attendants cannot mix and match “male” uniform pieces and “female” uniform pieces. For example, people wearing the “male” uniform are not allowed to wear pieces from the “female” uniform, such as the scarf or skirt. And people wearing the “female” uniform are not allowed to wear pieces from the “male” uniform, such as a tie. This also applies to articles of clothing that exist in both uniform lines, but in different cuts or styles.

And grooming standards? Inequitable:

Hair
Male: Hair can be long but must be pulled back at all times
Female: Long hair can remain down except during service

Facial Hair
Male: Certain styles allowed
Female: No styles allowed

Makeup
Male: Only concealer or tinted moisturizer
Female: Certain makeups permitted

Earrings
Male: One stud per ear
Female: Two earrings per ear

Sleeves:
Male: May roll them up
Female: May cuff the sleeve only once

Other differences involve tightness of clothing, collars, heels, nail polish, and other types of jewelry.

All this is no mere inconvenience:

By forcing our client and countless other employees to adhere to Alaska Airlines’ preferred vision of how men and women should appear, the uniform policy demeans employees who do not conform to gender stereotypes and materially interferes with their ability to do their jobs under equal terms and conditions as other employees

A result of the scourge: “constant misgendering.”

Justin feels “their gender identity and expression aren’t valued or accepted, and as a result feel forced to present as a ‘male’ at work.”

And it’s taking a biological toll:

The struggle Justin feels to be accepted while working as a flight attendant has exacerbated their anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Justin often faces panic attacks leading up to a scheduled shift as a flight attendant, which has resulted in them trading out of a shift or calling out sick on multiple occasions.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks:

Alaska Airlines’ uniform policy is… illegal. … [A]laska Airlines’ uniform policy discriminates based on “gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression” in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”), and discriminates based on “sex” in violation of both the WLAD and Title VII.

Per the letter, the law demands “employers may not ‘discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms or conditions of employment because of’ that person’s ‘gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally associated with the sex assigned to that person at birth.’”

In conclusion:

It is difficult to understand how a company that professes to be committed to diversity and inclusion can take the position that enforcing gender stereotypes on its employees is an expression of its corporate “brand.”

The letter urges Alaska to “take corrective action to remove gender-based distinctions and restrictions from [its] uniform policy, in accordance with [its] employees’ rights under the WLAD and Title VII.”

In compliance with requirements prior to a lawsuit, Justin’s filed a bias charge with Washington state’s Human Rights Commission.

And Alaska Airlines has wasted no time in issuing a statement:

Alaska Airlines has been a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. We have been a leader in the industry when it comes to inclusivity in our uniform and grooming standards, which have been informed by our employees and developed in accordance with federal and state laws.

Over the last year, it claims, changes have been made to that end.

Since early 2020, all flight attendants have been able to order any pant or parka style and have been able to select the uniform kit of their choice, regardless of gender identity.

And good news: Starting this month, a new gender-neutral hair policy will go into effect.

Will that be good enough for Justin? I’d estimate not.

From the letter:

[W]e will plan to follow up with you within two weeks of the mailing date of this letter.

Justin’s sure lucky to be living in 2021. Thinking back to all the jobs I had over several years, I never realized my employer was supposed to respect my personal expression. And I had no idea “flexibility” was an option.

The world’s really lightening up.

And in this multiple choice one we’re currently sharing, sexually speaking, it’s no longer A or B; don’t forget C: None of the above.

-ALEX

 

See more pieces from me:

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