NAACP alleges racial misconduct from Southwest Airlines at St. Louis Airport

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ST. LOUIS – The NAACP alleges serious racial problems at the biggest airline at St.Louis-Lambert International Airport.

The complaints don’t concern all of Southwest Airlines, only the station here in St. Louis.

“We received a number of different complaints,” said Adolphus Pruitt II, president of the NAACP St. Louis chapter.

He said Southwest Airlines fostered a discriminatory working environment for workers and customers.

“In one form or fashion (the airline) allowed for a workplace environment to become toxic to some degree and discriminatory in nature,” Pruitt said.

Southwest employees were not permitted to talk with the news media. Pruitt said they’ve received complaints concerning unequal discipline for black employees, manipulating overtime hours to ensure white employees—and not black workers—qualified for a rest period.

“We’ve been told it’s been used as a punishment and primarily against African-Americans,” Pruitt said.

One allegation said a white worker approached a table of black Southwest employees and, to paraphrase, said, “What is this, Selma?” The organization said a job was denied an African-American applicant because he was cross-eyed.

“That may have violated the Disabilities Act,” Pruitt said.

And according to a complaint, black passengers were not given the same opportunity at pre-boarding as white customers.

Southwest Airlines released a statement which said, in part:

“Southwest prides itself on an open and inclusive work environment. We take these accusations seriously and will conduct our own internal investigation. 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.”

The NAACP hopes to settle any problems without having to go to court. Southwest Airlines said it consistently ranks among the best places to work.