SEATTLE — The Washington branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is calling on Alaska Airlines to stop enforcing uniform policies that require flight attendants to adhere to "rigid" male and female dress and grooming standards.
The ACLU sent a letter to the company on behalf of a non-binary flight attendant and flight attendant instructor, Justin Wetherell, who has worked with the company for seven years.
"When I am working as a flight-attendant instructor and allowed to wear regular business attire, I am not forced into Alaska Airlines’ ‘male’ or ‘female’ uniform policies — neither of which fit me because I am non-binary,” Wetherell said. “But when I work as a flight attendant, I am forced into one of two standards, often for up to four days at a time. I am willing to follow all of the elements of the uniform policy for professional attire, as I do when I work as an instructor, but I don’t want to be forced into a binary uniform that excludes me and leads to me being misgendered at work.”
The ACLU argues Alaska Airlines' uniform policy violates the Washington Law Against Discrimination and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to a letter from the union.
Flight attendants are not allowed to mix and match "male" and "female" uniform pieces and must stick to one set of clothing. "Male" and "female" uniform guidelines also have distinct grooming guidelines around make-up, facial hair and hairstyles.
"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," the letter reads.
Wetherell told the ACLU they feel their gender identity isn't valued or accepted at work, and they feel forced to present as "male" while on the job, which has increased their anxiety, insomnia and depression.
Wetherell has been repeatedly denied the opportunity to speak with executive management about flight attendant dress standards, and their perspective as a non-binary individual and complaints of discrimination have been dismissed, the letter alleges.
In response, Alaska Airlines said they have introduced several new guidelines intended to give flight attendants more uniform options. The airline said all flight attendants have been allowed to order any pant or parka style and have been able to select the uniform kit of their choice. The company said it will also introduce new gender-neutral hair policies later in June.
"We are committed to continuing to explore uniform and grooming standards for our flight attendants. We know we cannot do this alone, and appreciate the feedback and partnership we have with our flight attendant community," the company wrote.
Their response can be found in full on their website.