Southwest responds to former ramp agent's 'whites only' break room suit

By John Suayan | Oct 22, 2018

HOUSTON – A Dallas-based low-cost carrier recently countered a federal lawsuit alleging it allowed a segregated break room to exist at a local airport for years.

Southwest Airlines filed a 14-page original answer into former ramp agent Jamel Parker’s suit on Oct. 8, according to Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas records. Parker brought the case against Southwest last Sept. 19.

Aside from the supposed “whites only” break room at William P. Hobby Airport, Parker accuses the airline of terminating him for failing to report a damaged power cord while white workers who committed the same infraction were retained.

Asserting it has an “inclusive work environment and exceptional internal work culture” and implements “robust anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation policies,” Southwest claims that Parker initiated legal action going on “demonstrably false allegations that (it) treats its black employees differently than its similarly-situated white employees.”

“The complaint is wrought with inaccurate, irrelevant, and exaggerated assertions in a transparent effort to support a meritless claim of race discrimination against Southwest,” the formal response says.

Southwest admits that it fired the plaintiff for property damage but states he failed to report the incident in accordance to “a consistently-applied company policy.”

“The plaintiff’s failure to report the accident is the only reason Southwest terminated his employment,” the answer says. “The plaintiff’s race had absolutely nothing to do with his termination, and his allegations to the contrary are completely false and without factual support.”

It adds that a neutral arbitrator “found insufficient evidence to conclude the plaintiff was the subject of disparate treatment, and further found Southwest had ‘just cause’ to fire the plaintiff.”

Michael D. Mitchell of the law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. in Houston is representing the defendant.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas Case No. 4:18-CV-3334

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