Ex-Southwest Employee Says Airline Had 'Whites Only' Break Room

Emergency personnel monitor the damaged engine of Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, which diverted to the Philadelphia International Airport this morning after the airline crew reported damage to one of the aircraft's engines, on a runway in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S. April 17, 2018. A former employee of Southwest filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company for having a "whites-only" break room. Reuters/Mark Makela

An ex-Southwest Airlines staffer filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the company earlier this week which alleges that his coworkers made a "whites-only" break room at Hobby Airport in Texas.

In the lawsuit filed in Houston, Texas on Wednesday, Jamel Parker, from Harris County, claims Southwest allowed the "whites-only" break room and fostered an environment where black staffers were subjected to "extreme race discrimination."

Parker revealed that the break room was used for several years until it was removed as part of a recent renovation. The former employee also claimed that other staffers hung a bungee cord noose at Hobby Airport's gate 45 that remained in place for the entire four years he was employed by the company.

The lawsuit states that Parker became aware of the "white-only" breakroom in August 2013, which continued to operate until 2016 or 2017. Parker also alleges that his supervisor allowed the break-room to operate, despite knowing its racial connotations.

"Southwest is quick to fire blacks while whites are given lesser discipline and chances to improve conduct," the lawsuit states.

Southwest Airlines responded to the lawsuit in a statement to ABC-7 on Thursday:

"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."

Parker started his employment with AirTran in 2008 and was technically employed by Southwest in 2013 after the two companies merged.

In April 2017, Southwest fired Parker after he damaged a vehicle he was operating during his employ and failed to report it immediately.

Parker claims that his termination was another example of racial discrimination towards black employees because two white employees had damaged vehicles, failed to report it, and were only issued with notices.

Southwest Airlines did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.