Lawsuit by ex-Southwest worker claims Hobby Airport had 'whites-only break room'

By Brittany Jeffers - Reporter, Aaron Barker - Senior Web Editor

HOUSTON - A lawsuit filed Wednesday by a former Southwest Airlines worker claims the company let employees create a “whites-only break room” at Hobby Airport.

Jamel Parker is suing the airline over what he said are inequities between white and black workers who work for the company at the airport, according to court documents. According to the lawsuit, he was fired by the company after they said he didn't report damaging an electrical cord.

Parker said he filed the lawsuit because he wants his job back, but the situation is more than just that.

“Within that is fairness. You want to be treated like everyone else is being treated. I wanted to be in a place where I feel like I’m equal," Parker said.

In the documents, Parker claims the segregated break room existed at the airport until a recent renovation removed it.

Parker also claims white and black employees are treated differently during the company’s disciplinary process, saying black employees are often fired for infractions for which their white coworkers are only scolded, according to the document.

Parker said that the segregated room was common knowledge but that he didn’t go inside.

“I avoided it at all costs,” he said.

Parker said he didn’t come forward to tell a supervisor because he wanted to keep his job.

"I didn’t want to speak out and put a target on my back,” he said.

He also referenced the discovery last year at the airport of a noose fashioned from bungee cords.

Here is a statement from Southwest Airlines:

"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."

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