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More than one noose found by Southwest Airlines employees at Houston’s Hobby Airport

November 20, 2018

Another noose was discovered by Southwest Airlines workers at Hobby airport, in addition to one cited in a lawsuit by a black employee alleging racial discrimination and hostility at the airline, according to Houston police.

Houston police said in a report that they investigated the discovery of the second noose in July, but could not identify suspects or make an arrest. No video cameras were in the area, which the police report did not specify.

Southwest confirmed “an item that could possibly resemble a noose” was found at Hobby Airport in July.

“Southwest takes such matters seriously, and leadership immediately tried to locate the object and identify any person who might have been involved,” the airline said in an email. “In addition, Houston police were also notified. Unfortunately, neither Southwest nor the police were able to locate the object or identify any person involved.”

The airline said it’s committed to an inclusive environment and takes pride in the company’s internal culture.

“Our goal is to provide our employees with a workplace that is free of discrimination,” the email read. “We communicate this commitment internally through policies, trainings, and discussions.”

Jamel Parker, a Pearland resident and former Southwest employee, filed suit against Southwest in September, alleging that the airline had a whites-only break room and that black employees found a noose made of bungee cords in December. The other noose found in July was not cited in the lawsuit.

In court documents responding to the lawsuit, Southwest Airlines denied there was a whites-only break room at Hobby Airport and accusations that black employees were treated differently than white employees.

Parker also alleged that he was fired in April 2017 for the kind of offense that only resulted in a slap on the wrist for white workers. He was driving a pushback, a vehicle used to push an aircraft away from a gate, when the tow bar attached to the pushback got caught on a power cable under the jet bridge, according to the lawsuit.

Parker did not believe he caused damage, so he didn’t report it, the lawsuit said. He was then fired for causing damage and not reporting it.

In contrast, the lawsuit said, a white employee hit a belt loader with a baggage cart and only admitted to it after camera footage was reviewed. He was given a letter of instruction, the lowest level of discipline an employee can receive.

Another white employee was driving a tug, the vehicle that pulls baggage carts, when he hit a different tug. The employee in that other tug reported the incident, but the at-fault employee did not report the accident until confronted about it. He was disciplined, but not fired, according to the lawsuit.

Southwest said the first employee’s actions did not result in damaged equipment. And while the employee in the tug did damage equipment, he was on the way to report it when called into the supervisor’s office, according to Southwest. He chose to deliver two late bags before reporting the incident.

Parker was not surprised that a second noose was found at Hobby Airport.

“This didn’t happen just once but twice within seven months,” he said in an email. “There is a clearly a racial issue at Southwest and they are not concerned about protecting its black employees from harassment and discrimination. Southwest should be held accountable.”

andrea.leinfelder@chron.com

twitter.com/andrearumbaugh

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