Since the deregulation of the airline industry, flight attendants have become the friendly faces and hallmark of airline brands across the globe. However, airlines went to unconstitutional heights to ensure that flight attendants looked, behaved, and acted in compliance with conservative and outdated notions about gender and sexuality. Piece by piece, the airline industry’s strict and misogynist policies that regulated female flight attendants’ appearance were declared a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; however, the sexist policies and attitudes maintain a pervasive and insidious presence in the modern airline industry.
Moreover, the airline industry’s dress and appearance policies aim to reinforce traditional and binary gender distinctions. Although Title VII has provided legal protection against workplace discrimination based on sex, courts and legislatures were divided on Title VII’s application to individuals who diverged from traditional and binary gender distinctions. However, the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County ended this split by interpreting Title VII to protect employees against discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity. When paired with society’s increasing acceptance of gender fluidity and individual autonomy, Bostock has the potential to render gendered dress codes obsolete and unconstitutional.
The airline industry’s sexist history paired with its strict, traditional, and gendered dress and appearance policies makes it a prime defendant in a Title VII suit to test the applicability of Bostock to gendered employment policies.
Elise Gonzalez, Crash Landing: The Airline Industry’s Failing Efforts to Remedy Its Sexist and Discriminatory Practices Towards Flight Attendants,
J. Air L. & Com.