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July 16, 2015

American Airlines employees in Philly, D.C. accuse airline of racial discrimination

At least 80 African-American employees at American Airlines in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. are claiming to be victims of racial discrimination, according to a letter from the Philly-based Mildenberg Law Firm, NBC10 reports.

In the letter, which was sent to United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the employees accuse managers of using racially-charged language. They also allege that the terminal they worked in had racially segregated break rooms, control rooms, teams and job assignments. 

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 letter also alleges that African-American employees had to work under dangerous conditions while the managers allowed white employees to use newer and safer equipment. 

“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.”

In a written statement to NBC10, a spokesperson for American Airlines denied the allegations of racism.

“Diversity and inclusion are fundamental to our airline,” the spokesperson wrote. “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.”

In addition, the spokesperson responded to the allegations of safety violations.

“The safety of our customers and employees is our highest priority,” the spokesperson wrote. “The training procedures and equipment that we use have been recognized as the best in the industry and fully comply with government safety regulations.”

Download a PDF version of the letter.