A former Southwest Airlines employee is suing the regional carrier, saying his coworkers created a ‘whites-only’ breakroom at a Houston airport.
The supposedly segregated breakroom—known by employees as the ‘W.B.’—had allegedly been around for years. Plaintiff Jamel Parker says the company knew about the room at William B. Hobby Airport and tolerated its existence.
“Although this level of blatant racism sounds almost unbelievable, this whites-only area for white Southwest employees existed for years until a recent renovation removed the room,” claims the suit.
Parker, says NBC News, lost his job with Southwest in April of 2017. He was fired after driving a ‘pushback,’ a type of vehicle used to move aircraft away from docks and passenger gates.
With Parker at the wheel, the pushback’s tow bar became entangled in a power cable.
While Parker says he didn’t cause any damage, he was removed from his position for not reporting the close encounter.
That experience, claims Parker, is further proof of Southwest’s supposedly racist policies. The plaintiff claims the company didn’t fire two white employees who’d made similar mistakes. One man, reports NBC, ‘allegedly hit a belt loader with a luggage cart.’ He kept the incident a secret and only admitted to the mistake after camera footage was reviewed. Another employee was given a ‘final warning letter’ after hitting a baggage cart tow-vehicle with his own.
The suit also recounts an ‘alleged incident where black employees found a noose made of bungee cords at a Southwest airport gate.’
Along with accusations of Southwest allowing a whites-only breakroom in Houston, Parker says the airline fired him unfairly on account of his race. As recompense, Parker is seeking an unspecified sum to be paid in damages.
A pretrial hearing and scheduling conference are both set for January 25th.
Southwest refused comment, citing policy on pending litigation. Nevertheless, the airline stressed that it’s an equal-opportunity employer that puts its personnel first.
“We work relentlessly to foster an environment that is diverse and inclusive,” Southwest said in a statement. “We do not tolerate or condone discrimination of any kind, and we cultivate a workplace that mirrors the customers we serve.”
The allegations outlined in Parker’s suit come across as hard to believe—but, as CNN notes, this isn’t the first time Southwest’s been accused of the unbelievable.
Earlier in the year, says CNN, a white woman was asked to prove that her ‘1-year old biracial son was hers’ before being allowed aboard a Southwest flight to Denver.
“After approx 50 times flying with my 1 year old son, ticket counter personnel told me I had to “prove” that he was my son, despite having his passport,” tweeted the woman. “She said because we have different last name [sic]. My guess is because he has a different skin color.”
Southwest has also made headlines for removing a University of California—Berkeley student who’d been speaking in Arabic on the phone, as well as a lesbian couple who’d kissed after taking their seats in the cabin.