Eighty Black and minority employees have filed a class action lawsuit against American Airlines/US Airways. The employees alledge they were subject to racial abuse, unfair treatment and had to endure segregated work areas and break rooms, according to NBC10. The Mildenberg Law Firm, which is handling the case, has also written a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch asking her to order the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the allegations.
“Madam Attorney General, the largest airline in the world needs to be held to an appropriate standard. My clients respectfully request that the DOJ initiate an investigation into these allegations, for the safety of my clients, and for the safety of the flying public,” said the letter.
According to the Mildenberg Law Firm, the plaintiffs are maintenance, catering and baggage workers, customer service agents and an aircraft mechanic.
Some of the allegations are quite shocking. According to NBC 10, “The employees accuse managers at American Airlines in Philly and D.C. of using racial slurs against them, including ‘circus monkeys,’ and the n-word. They also said the managers had offensive nicknames for areas where mostly African-Americans worked such as ‘jungle,’ ‘ghetto,’ ‘Darfur,’ ‘Black panther break room,’ and ‘chocolate break room.’”
The Mildenberg Law Firm letter also accuses American Airlines of discriminating against Black employees by denying them overtime opportunities, punishing them more harshly than white employees and denying them training opportunities that would have allowed them to advance in the workforce.
Additionally, the letter says American Airlines committed several safety violations. An aircraft mechanic, who is one of the plaintiffs, said he had witnessed several incidents of “aircraft maintenance fraud.” The mechanic alleged other mechanics were allowing planes to fly that needed repair and much of the maintenance work had been outsourced to South America, where wages were cheaper, but there were fewer FAA-approved mechanics. The mechanic claimed he was scared to come forward because he feared retribution.
“This allegation is what started our investigation into the safety practices of this airline,” the letter states. “Our clients alleged that white employees were routinely allowed by managers to reserve the best tugs, trucks, lifts and other equipment for their use, to the exclusion of black employees. Black employees have been forced to work on the unsafe equipment that is described in detail in the Safety Complaint, and which equipment both the FAA and OSHA have confirmed does not comply with federal standards.”
American Airlines Spokesman Casey Norton denied the charges saying their safety measures were among the best in the industry.
“The safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority,” said Norton in a statement provided to NBC10. “The training procedures and equipment that we use have been recognized as the best in the industry and fully comply with government safety regulations.”
Norton also said the company was committed to workplace diversity.
“Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to our airline,”Norton said. “Ours is a diverse workforce serving customers who are equally diverse, and we are committed to fostering a work environment that is based on collaborative teamwork and mutual respect. We will vigorously defend our company and the hard-working employees who provide top-quality service to our customers each and every day.”
However, a review of American Airlines’ website shows all of their senior officers are white.
In 2013, American Airlines merged with US Airways to form the world’s largest airline. However this is not the first time American Airlines/US Airways has faced legal action over workplace discrimination and safety violations.
“In 2010, the ramp workers’ Philadelphia lawyer, Brian R. Mildenberg, sued US Airways on behalf of the NAACP for alleged discrimination against African American employees at Philadelphia International Airport,” said Philly.com. “The case ended with an undisclosed settlement and a pledge by the airport’s largest airline to improve workplace diversity.”
Last year OSHA fined American Airlines $11,000 for five workplace hazards.