SEPTA has come under fire from the Philadelphia branch of the NAACP following allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment.
At a press conference held Tuesday at the NAACP’s Nicetown headquarters, former SEPTA employees shared upsetting details of harassment on the job by their superiors.
Former locomotive engineer, William Harris Jr., who worked for SEPTA earlier this year says he was fired after turning down sexual advances made by his male superior.
“I grew up watching buses and the trains, and for me to be an employee on the train, to make up to $122K a year as a locomotive engineer, I was ecstatic,” the 32-year-old shared when discussing how he first felt on the job.
That feeling came to a halt after Williams said he was approached by his supervisor who asked him to perform a sex act on him in a SEPTA office
“He told me I was going to have to do that to get to the top. … If I did what he told me to do, I would have had my job, but when would it stop?” asked Harris.
Harris reported the incident to a SEPTA supervisor but according to the transit authority, there was not enough evidence. Following his complaint of sexual harassment, Williams was fire.
Former SEPTA employees share similar stories of discrimination and harassment on the job
Other former SEPTA employees who spoke at the press conference had a similar story.
Michelle Jones shared that she was pressured for sex by a SEPTA manager, who has since retired. After reporting him, she was also fired.
“He asked me to do things to him in his office. He would speak about my body and he was very retaliatory,” Jones shared.
After hearing other stories from former employees at the press conference, the president of Philadelphia’s NAACP branch, Rodney Muhammad, is looking for answers from SEPTA.
“We are also a team that’s not going away. We are going to keep coming back to the press with more and more evidence,” NAACP President Minister Rodney Muhammad said.
According to the Philadelphia Tribune, SEPTA spokesman Andrew Busch sent an emailed statement stating that he already spoke with Muhammad earlier this year regarding the discrimination and sexual harassment claims.
“We have contacted him repeatedly in hopes of furthering these discussions, including a phone call and a letter sent via email just yesterday [Monday],” Busch stated. “Unfortunately, he has not responded to these calls and emails. SEPTA personnel who handle these matters have been and will remain available to talk to him.”
When asked about the former SEPTA employees’ claims, Busch declined to comment. Meanwhile, Muhammad shared that roughly 115 former and current SEPTA employees have also called on the NAACP in recent months in regards to the workplace environment at SEPTA.
Muhammad has warned that if SEPTA doesn’t deal with these allegations, a protest may be in the future.