Last month, following an airline’s loss in a religious bias lawsuit brought by a former employee, a Texas federal judge issued a scathing 29-page decision in which he ordered the airline to have three of its lawyers complete 8 hours of religious-liberty training each. Read this post if you want more background on the lawsuit.
Predictably, the airline appealed the lower court’s decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It also asked the sanctioning judge to stay his order requiring training. That last part didn’t go so well.
There’s a lot I could write here about the court’s 27-page opinion and order, like the “wanna get away” and nontransferable “Rapid Rewards points” puns. But let’s skip right to the parts that deal directly with the religious-liberty training.
In the court’s opinion, which in my experience is the only one that matters, the airline’s request for a stay “show[ed] that religious-liberty training is more necessary now than ever before.”
The judge concluded that instead of following the court’s directive to inform flight attendants that the airline may not discriminate against its flight attendants for their religious practices and beliefs, the airline continued to require its employees to abide by policies and procedures that would not supersede Title VII.
“Those communications told flight attendants that [the airline’s] civility policies are the enforceable thing, and [the airline] does not discriminate against religion,” wrote the court.
It added that any harm the airline suffers “for not lying about the enforceability of the injunction is due to [the airline] not obtaining a stay of that ruling.”
And because the court felt that the airline’s lawyers “misunderstand the relationship between their policies and Title VII,” it concluded that “[t]hey direly need religious-liberty training.”
But, argued the airline, a stay pending adjudication of the appeal at the Fifth Circuit would not harm the plaintiff as she has no personal interest in the three airline lawyers attending religious-liberty training.
The court disagreed.
Most notably, “the flight attendants the injunction protects will benefit from religious-liberty training for the attorneys who draft the relevant communications. Without that training, [the airline] has intentionally subverted the court’s notice. Of course, the flight attendants would benefit from a group that is trained to respect Title VII instead of undermine it.”
And that training will come from the Alliance Defending Freedom. Calling the airline’s argument that “[r]equiring religious-liberty training from an ideological organization with a particular viewpoint on what the law requires” a “gripe” rather than a valid legal objection, the court explained that it selected ADF because it “appears well-suited to train [the airline’s] lawyers on a topic with which the lawyers evidently struggle.”
The airline has until September 7 to file for a stay with the Fifth Circuit pending appeal there.