A former black employee at Southwest Airlines has alleged that its employees set up a "whites only" break room. The former employee, identified as Jamel Parker, filed a lawsuit in a federal court and also alleged that he was fired from his position at the company because of his race.
Parker, a resident of Harris County in Texas, while talking to the Houston Chronicle on Thursday, said: "You would think in 2018 it doesn't happen, but it does."
The 31-year-old has also alleged that he was fired from the airlines for a minor offence for which other white employees generally receive a mild punishment.
Southwest Airlines declined to comment on the specifics of the allegation but released a statement, saying: "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," the statement added.
Reports state that Parker began working for AirTran Airways as a ramp agent in September 2008 and, when AirTran and Southwest merged in 2013, he became an employee of Southwest Airlines.
Parker's supervisor at Southwest, who is also black, warned him about a breakroom shortly after the merger. "'It's just best to avoid that', is basically what he said," Parker added.
The lawsuit also alleged that the company executives knew about the existence of "WB" or "white break room" and it ceased to exist in 2016 or 2017 when renovations changed it into a supervisor officer, according to reports.
Parker was fired from the company in April 2017 and said that he was removed from his position because he caused damage to a tow bar attacked to a pushback vehicle which is used to push an aircraft away from a gate. The former employee alleged that he was fired after he failed to report the tow bar damage.
A former employee for Southwest Airlines filed a discrimination lawsuit against the carrier, claiming it allowed employees to create a "whites-only" break room at Houston's Hobby Airport https://t.co/ipQhSFOz7E— CNN (@CNN) September 21, 2018
"Southwest is quick to fire blacks while whites are given lesser discipline and chances to improve conduct," the lawsuit alleges, adding that white employees who made similar errors were just handed a letter of instruction.
According to the lawsuit, shortly after Parker's firing, a noose was found hanging at gate 45 at Houston Hobby Airport. He allegedly learnt about the noose from a private Facebook page used by the employees at the company.
Parker said that he wants his lawsuit to bring about a change and has also sought damages from the company, including lost wages.