Ex-Southwest Airlines employee’s lawsuit alleges ‘whites-only’ break room at Hobby Airport

HOUSTON — A former Southwest Airlines employee has filed a lawsuit against the airline claiming “extreme race discrimination.”

Jamel Parker’s lawsuit accuses Southwest of allowing employees to create a whites-only break room at Hobby Airport.

Parker, who was fired by Southwest in 2017, says he learned about the so-called “WB” from a black supervisor when he started working for the airline in 2013.

He claims it existed for years until a recent renovation of Hobby Airport.

“He said it’s just best to avoid that,” Parker said. “Just don’t go in there. And that’s exactly what I did.”

According to Parker, the room didn’t have a door or sign but says segregation was understood, and he didn’t challenge it.

“I didn’t want any trouble,” he said. “I didn’t want to target on my back. I have a very good-paying job. I have really good benefits. I’m not here to make any waves. I really just, really blocked that out. I’m just here to work.”

Parker also alleges black employees are held to a higher standard than their white counterparts.

Parker was fired after he ran over a power cord and failed to report it.

He cites two similar cases involving white employees who were disciplined but not fired.

Parker’s lawsuit also claims black employees found a noose made of bungee cords at a Southwest gate at Hobby.

“Someone took that cord and created a noose and just left it on there for people to see. It was out in the open,” Parker said.

Parker is suing the airline for lost wages and other damages. He has requested a jury trial and also wants his job back.

“I put my time in and I saw this as a career. This is a place that I thought I was going to retire.”

We reached out to Southwest Airlines for comment and they sent the following statement:

“We wouldn’t be able to offer comment on matters relating to litigation, but we welcome the opportunity to emphasize that Southwest is and always has been a Company that puts its People first. We work relentlessly to foster an environment that is diverse and inclusive. We do not tolerate or condone discrimination of any kind, and we cultivate a workplace that mirrors the Customers we serve.

Southwest Airlines is an Equal Opportunity Employer and prides itself on an open and inclusive work environment that consistently ranks among the world’s best places to work. We employ more than 57,000 People who provide the world’s best hospitality to our more than 120 million annual Customers as they travel throughout the Southwest network. Our People are our greatest asset, and it is our goal to support our Employees and our Customers who come from all walks of life.”

© 2018 KHOU

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