January 7, 2010
The NAACP is suing US Airways, accusing the airline of discriminating against African American Philadelphia airport employees by assigning them to less desirable gates, which employees refer to with racially loaded nicknames, like "Compton" and "The Ghetto."
The suit was filed on Tuesday, and claims that both managers and lower level employees openly use derogatory terms to refer to the terminals where a majority of African American employees work, according to an article by The Philadelphia Inquirer on January 7th.
The lawsuit was brought forward by the NAACP, along with three former airline employees.
According to the complaint, Terminal C was nicknamed both "Compton", a Californian city known for violence, and "Camden", another crime-ridden city located near Philadelphia. Terminal F, a remote terminal that has fewer amenities, is perceived to have more minority passengers, and which also houses US Airways, is referred to as "The Ghetto."
Additionally, parts of the airport with mostly white employees are named after typically-white Philadelphia neighborhoods, like "Frankford" and "South Philly". Sections of main terminals A and B were nicknamed "King of Prussia," after a nearby suburb known for its wealth.
The NAACP also claims that African American workers were given less popular shifts than white workers, and that the shifts were referred to with the derogatory nicknames.
"We take discrimination very seriously," Suzanne Boda, the senior vice president of airport customer service, international and cargo for US Airways, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "We have a very strong commitment to diversity and to nondiscrimination."
Boda, who had not previously heard the nicknames, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that terminal and shift assignments were based purely on seniority.
"You bid for whatever shift you want to work and where you want to work."
The suit seeks damages for all African American employees and the reinstatement of the three employees named in the suit. An immediate ban on "racial code words" is also called for, as well as the placement of a civil-rights monitor to supervise all US Airways operations in Philadelphia.