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Alaska Airlines announces gender-neutral uniform policy following employee complaint

The airline is enabling greater freedom and flexibility in individuality and gender expression.

By Markus Bidaux

Words: Markus Bidaux; images: Ingrid Barrentine

Alaska Airlines has announced a new gender-neutral uniform policy.

A complaint by Kyle Levine, an Alaska Airlines employee, to the legal non-profit American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on 4 June 2021 has led to great policy changes for the company.

The ACLU’s warning letter to the company stated: “Alaska Airlines’ uniform policy is not only harmful. It is also illegal.”

It continued: “Based on ‘gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression’ in violation of the Washington Law Against Discrimination”.

In response, the Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has partnered with its employees to create new uniform guidelines that provide more freedom and flexibility in individuality and gender expression.

The changes include fingernail polish, makeup, two earrings per ear, and a single stud nose piercing as options available to all employees now. They have also updated their policies to allow for tattoos in more areas, more hairstyles, and uniform kits will be labelled by fit rather than gender.

Personal pronoun pins have been created for employees that wish to wear them.

And the airline is also working on giving its guests the ability to choose their personal pronouns while booking travel by the end of 2022.

The airline is also developing new, gender-neutral uniform pieces for the frontline staff working with Seattle-based designer Luly Yang with input from employees.

Much more can and should be done throughout the airline industry to make employees feel they can be their true selves in the workplace, but the likes of United Airlines made similar changes last year and as of 2019 Virgin Atlantic no longer require female flight attendants to wear makeup and allows them to wear trousers.