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Citing a 'hostile work environment' at Lambert, NAACP asks Southwest for workplace data

A Southwest Airlines jet in St. Louis
St. Louis Lambert International Airport

The St. Louis branch of the NAACP is calling on Southwest Airlines to address complaints by African-American employees of discrimination at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

Adolphus Pruitt, president of the St. Louis branch, said Thursday that the NAACP wants Southwest to provide information on who the company had hired, fired, disciplined or transferred in the last seven years, by race and gender.


The NAACP also sent Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly a 10-page report that details complaints employees made to the civil rights organization which alleged a hostile work environment.  

Among them were complaints that some white employees had used racial epithets to refer to black employees, that customer-service agents openly discussed in front of African-American employees how they wanted to buy a Confederate flag and hang it in the break room.

It follows a letter Pruitt sent to Kelly in July.

The complaints also alleged that white employees had been given preferential treatment and that African-Americans had been more harshly disciplined.

“The sort of discrimination we found was not only as it relates to unequal discipline,” Pruitt said at a press conference.  “Some of the things we discovered through our investigation were horrific.”
In its letter to Southwest, the NAACP also sought information on complaints made to supervisors and on labor-relations investigations. Pruitt said the company had yet to receive a response to its requests.

A spokeswoman for the airline said Southwest does not condone or tolerate discrimination.

In a July 18 response to Pruitt, Southwest General Counsel Juan Suarez denied the NAACP’s request for information and said that the company would conduct its own internal investigation.

Pruitt said Thursday that the civil rights organization is starting a social media campaign to bring public awareness to the complaints.

Follow Lara on Twitter: @hamdanlf

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