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ACLU Letter Prompts Changes to Dress Code for Alaska Airlines

In early June 2021, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a letter regarding Alaska Airlines’ uniform policy for flight attendants. The non-profit organization represents a non-binary and gender-fluid individual, Justin Wetherell, who worked as a flight attendant instructor and a flight attendant. While working as a flight attendant instructor, the Airline allowed Wetherell to dress in professional business attire that was neither typically male or female. However, when Wetherell worked as a flight attendant, they had to wear a uniform that aligned with rigid gender stereotypes. According to the ACLU letter, Alaska Airlines had “male” dress and grooming requirements and “female” dress and grooming requirements. The ACLU letter acknowledged that Alaska Airlines allowed employees to dress according to their gender identity, however, everyone must dress male or female. Individuals may not mix and match from both the male and female groups of clothing. In addition to clothing limits, the ACLU letter outlined male and female guidelines on makeup, hair, shoes, and jewelry. Because Wetherell is gender-fluid, the requirements unnecessarily restricted how an employee must appear. Under the guidelines, Wetherell must dress in “male” attire. The ACLU alleged the impact of these requirements caused Wetherell “anxiety, insomnia, and depression.”

Wetherell requested changes to the policy, but Alaska Airlines declined, stating the “uniform policy and grooming standards are a component of the company’s branding and intended to maintain a consistent image for customers.” ACLU asserted the policy violated Title VII and Washington state’s anti-discrimination law.

Alaska Airlines responded to the ACLU in a published letter as well. The company asserted its commitment to making everyone feel respected and included. Employees will soon have the ability to order individual items online, and the Airline will implement new gender-neutral hair policies that allow everyone to wear their hair down when not serving food.