Alaska Airlines has announced changes to its uniform policy, including the removal of limitations on nail paint, tattoos, and piercings, as well as the development of gender-neutral uniform items for flight attendants.
In a statement, the airline stated that the policy change reflected its desire to “offer more freedom and flexibility in individual and gender expression.” Employees will be able to wear personal pronoun pins with their uniform to guarantee they are not misgendered, and the titles of the airline’s uniform kits, such as “stewardess,” will be changed to emphasize on fit rather than gender identity.
“I know firsthand what it feels like not to be seen, heard or able to bring your authentic self to work,” James Thomas, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Alaska Airlines, said in a news release announcing the policy update. “When I’ve experienced this, it didn’t feel great and honestly made it hard to come to work every day during those times, or to deliver my best work. Our employees, guests and communities we serve have my commitment we are going to keep listening and pushing ourselves to be better.”
The announcement comes nearly nine months after the airline was accused of discriminating against nonbinary and gender nonconforming employees.
Prior to the policy change, Alaska Airlines flight attendants were obliged to follow a strict set of “male” and “female” dress and grooming requirements that included hairdo, makeup, and jewelry.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) of Washington, where the airline is headquartered, wrote to the airline in June, claiming that the policy violated state nondiscrimination laws as well as Title IX of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The ACLU argued in its statement on behalf of Alaska Airlines employee Justin Wetherell, who is nonbinary, that “these strict, binary uniform standards are more than a simple annoyance.” “By forcing our client and countless other employees to adhere to Alaska Airlines’ preferred vision of how men and women should appear, 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.”
In response to the ACLU’s complaint, Alaska Airlines claimed in a statement in June that employees had been permitted to buy “any pant or parka design” and “choose the uniform kit of their choosing, regardless of gender identification,” since 2020.
“Alaska Airlines has been a longtime supporter of the LGBTQ+ community. We have been a leader in the industry when it comes to inclusivity in our uniform and grooming standards, which have been informed by our employees and developed in accordance with federal and state laws,” the airline said.
Alaska Airlines will develop new, gender-neutral uniform components for front-line staff such as flight attendants, customer service agents, and uniformed lounge employees in addition to its new uniform policy. Luly Yang, a Seattle designer, will create the outfits with feedback from airline personnel.