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Muslim flight attendant files complaint after discipline for refusing to serve alcohol

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

A Muslim flight attendant disciplined for refusing to serve alcohol has filed a federal complaint in Detroit.

Attorneys for Charee Stanley filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Tuesday.

Stanley is a flight attendant with ExpressJet Airways, working with Detroit-based management and crew.

When she converted to Islam about two years ago, Stanley says she arranged for fellow flight attendants to serve alcohol on her behalf.

She says that arrangement worked out fine until one employee filed a complaint about having to do extra work last month.

That employee also made comments about her Islamic headdress and expressed other anti-Muslim sentiments, according to Stanley.

Stanley, who was placed on unpaid leave in mid-August after that complaint, said ExpressJet should accommodate her religious beliefs.

“I don’t feel like I should have to choose between practicing my religion properly and earning a living,” Stanley said.

Lena Masri, staff attorney with the Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan, says that by law, employers must provide “reasonable accommodations” for an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs –provided that accommodation doesn’t cause an “undue burden” for the employer.

“In this situation, there has clearly been no undue burden on the employer, as this request [was] accommodated for some time and there has never been any issue,” Masri said.

CAIR-Michigan director Dawud Walid added the organization is seeing more workplace discrimination cases.

“Her case is symptomatic of broader problem of Islamophobia that seems to be growing,” Walid said.

Stanley’s attorneys say that if the EEOC complaint doesn’t resolve the issue, a federal lawsuit could be filed.

In a statement, an ExpressJet spokesman said the airline is “an equal opportunity employer with a long history of diversity in our workforce” – but isn’t able to comment on an employee’s “personnel matters.” 

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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