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Despite Changes, Alaska Airlines Uniform Requirements May Still be Discriminatory

Seattle, USA - April 28, 2012: Alaska Airlines jet at the D Concourse being loaded with passengers and luggage.

Even though Alaska Airlines has rolled out multiple accommodative rules to their passenger-facing uniform requirements, a complaint to the Washington State Human Rights Commission still finds the practices discriminatory.
Alaska Airlines touts their uniform policy as one of the most inclusive among all airlines. A recent finding by the Washington State Human Rights Commission finds otherwise.


Reuters reports the state body found the policies may be discriminative to those who are non-binary or identify as “gender fluid.”


Liberal Uniform Policies Found to Discriminate Against Some Employees

The decision was made after a complaint to the commission by Alaska employee Justin Wetherell, who identifies as a non-binary person. According to his complaint, the airline forced them to choose between either a “male” or “female” identity uniform, with strict appearance requirements. For example: employees with any facial hair must wear the “male” identity uniform, while bright lipstick colors are only allowed with the “female” uniform.


In the six-page decision, the commission says there is “sufficient evidence” to suggest that the policies were discriminatory to Wetherell on the basis of gender identity and expression. State law prevents employers from “requiring an individual to dress or groom in a manner that is not consistent with that individual’s gender expression or gender identity.


“Complainant was treated less favorably than flight attendants not of their same protected class because make and female employees had uniform kits specifically designed for them and their gender identities,” the ruling reads. “Whereas Complainant has been forced to try fitting into a binary uniform system despite identifying as neither male nor female and making multiple requests for exceptions to the uniform policy that would have allowed them to dress and groom according to their gender identity.”


Earlier in 2022, Alaska Airlines introduced a wide-ranging update to uniform policies, including offering workers pronoun identity pins and rolling out gender neutral options. Although the “finding of reasonable cause” was entered by the commission, it falls short of a lawsuit forcing the carrier to change their overall policies.


Alaska Receives Pushback on Policies from Both Sides

The complaint to the Washington State Human Rights Commission is not the first time the Seattle-based carrier received pushback over their culture. In 2021, a group of flight attendants accused the carrier of cutting their jobs over questioning the airline’s support for LGBT+ causes.

RandyN September 26, 2022

Gay man here. I do not want to rely on a FA who comes to work in pumps and a skirt with a neatly trimmed beard and lipstick, because I don't believe that person takes their job seriously. 

drvannostren September 20, 2022

I cant say I really care, pick a gender, don't pick a gender, do whatever you want, it makes no difference to me.  But if you showed up to a flight attendant job with face tattoos and a green mohawk, you wouldn't get hired, or you'd be sent home.

I'm not sure what the complainant is looking for here.  I'm assuming the airline has offered them BOTH uniforms.  Feel like wearing pants one day?  Wear pants.  Feel like wearing a skirt with a scarf, wear that.  Feel like wearing one on monday and the other on Tuesday, whatever, don't care.  But it's real easy I think to make yourself middle of the road.  A person with medium hair and no facial hair can easily conform to either uniform standard.  But it seems like the complainant wants to have mid-back length hair, a full beard, and wear a skirt.  Don't care what you wanna do in your free time, but the standards that have been opened up and changed to be more inclusive are just that, just because they don't extend to the very last item doesn't seem unfair.  I'm a shorts guy, flight attendants don't have shorts as an option (at least not that I've ever seen) I don't think that qualifies for a human rights complaint.  

Provide the employee with both sets of uniforms and allow the employee to choose on a daily basis which one they wear.  Seems plenty inclusive to me.

edgewood49 September 18, 2022

Ben needs to end this "woke" movement and get back to managing  an airline, which currerntly is questionable. This is a classic case of the 'inmates running the asylum" As a long time AS flyer. MM'er etc I find that AS has lost it's "hometown image" assuming a non image, the OW has been meh to which "are we any better off"  Looks like BA is still the only consistant partner.

Counsellor September 16, 2022

The point of a uniform is -- uniformity.  The company uses uniforms as (in part) "trade dress" to advertize and support their company.  If he/she gets to dress any way he/she wants, why have a uniform in the first place?

ProjectRebooter September 16, 2022

It's perfectly OK to sympathize with Alaska's challenge here but all this "woke" and binary trashing is despicable. Why do you need to disparage people this way? What do you personally gain but to make our world more divisive? If the left are "woke" does that make the rest of you "asleep?" If this was your sibling, parent or child would you be so invested in hating on them? I can't believe Flyer Talk allows this kind of commentary in this community.