TSA accused of discrimination

4:03 PM, Apr 1, 2011   |    comments
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MEMPHIS (NBC) -- There are accusations against the Transportation Security Administration is engaging in gender discrimination.

The issue began with a memo directed toward all TSA officers.

It included a schedule change based on gender.

TSA considers it a necessity; the union considers it discrimination.

"It's just un-American," said Valyria Lewis. "As a woman, I was outraged."

The union president is also a TSA officer in Memphis.

She traveled to Nashville this week over concerns about a memo posted behind glass at Nashville International.

"It was desperation. It was anger. It was a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness because they felt that they had no other outlet," said Lewis.

Currently, women working as lead transportation security officers can either work baggage or the checkpoint.

For many, certification in both means job security and a better paycheck.

But in the memo, the man in charge made a move to stop female lead officers from working baggage.

Starting soon, they can only take shifts at the checkpoint.

"As a woman, it's frustrating for me, to tell me that I can't. To simply just tell me that I can't because I'm a woman; that's frustrating to me, and that's why I make the stand," Lewis said.

According to a TSA spokesman, "It is necessary to ensure that an appropriate number of both male and female officers are available to carry out screening responsibilities at the security checkpoint."

The bottom line, TSA said, is it's an operational need.

Lewis said she doesn't buy it.

"We've fought EEO cases for women across the country and won those cases because the TSA can't use operational need to justify an alleged discrimination," said Lewis.

The union said the new policy discourages female workers from trying to climb the ladder -- just part of the reason it plans to encourage workers to formally complain.

"We're willing to fight it all the way to the end," said Lewis. "We're seeing this constantly at different airports."

In the Washington Post on Thursday, a TSA spokesman acknowledged a gender gap in the TSA ranks and said the agency is trying to recruit more officers, including women, to work at airports in Nashville and across the nation.


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