Saying that US Airways used racist “code words” and subjected Black employees to a hostile work environment, the NAACP has filed a lawsuit against the airliner on behalf of African-American workers.
“It’s against the law to have a hostile working environment for a particular minority," NAACP lawyer Brian Mildenberg, told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Filed Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the lawsuit accuses US Airways of discriminating against African-American employees, by referring to them as "ghetto" or "hood" and by sticking them with the least desirable posts. Those areas, the lawsuit alleges, had such racially charged nicknames as "Compton," "Camden," and "The Ghetto."
The more glamorous gates had nicknames like "Frankford," "South Philly," and "King of Prussia" – which are all Whiter regions of the Philadelphia area.
One of three plaintiffs who joined the NAACP in bringing the lawsuit is Tiffany Salters, a customer-service manager, who contends that she was forced out because the airline frowned on her role as secretary of the Camden County branch of the NAACP.
Salters claims she was "harassed" by managers because of her work ties to the NAACP. The official reason for her ultimate firing in 2007 was a security lapse, which she argues was not her responsibility, according to the Inquirer.
"It really was bad there," Salters told the newspaper, noting that she has been unable to find a job since.
In addition to damages for all Black employees, the NAACP is requesting that US Airways discard all racial code words and that African Americans who were unjustifiably fired be reinstated. The civil rights group is also demanding that a civil-rights monitor be appointed to oversee US Airways' Philadelphia operations.
"We take discrimination very seriously," said Suzanne Boda, the airline's senior vice president/airport customer service, international and cargo. "We have a very strong commitment to diversity and to nondiscrimination."
Assignments to gates are based on seniority, Boda said. "You bid for whatever shift you want to work and where you want to work," she said. Whether African-American employees, as a group, have less seniority than Whites is not clear, she said, adding that she had not heard of the offending nicknames, according to the Inquirer.
US Airways has 6,000 employees in Philadelphia. Airline spokesman Morgan Durrant told the Inquirer that he did not know how many of the workers are Black.