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Residents join suit over jobs at airport

Three former Medford airport screeners have joined a class action lawsuit that claims they were discriminated against when they tried to become federal employees.

Congress required all airport screeners become part of the federal Transportation Security Administration after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks last year.

They told us if we passed the test we would be hired. Well, it didn't happen that way, said former Medford airport screener Diana Wadley of White City.

Wadley is one of 140 former screeners who have joined the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Similar suits also have been filed in Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Cincinnati, Orlando, Fla., and other cities.

According to the suit, former airport screeners, who applied for the new jobs, claim among other things that they were promised preferential treatment during the hiring process.

However, the screeners were discriminated against on the basis of gender, race and age when they applied for the new positions, according to the suit.

Women and minorities in particular failed at a higher rate than white male screeners, the suit alleges.

The suit maintains transportation and testing officials discriminated against former screeners by giving them tests that were subjective and also didn't allow enough time for applicants to complete them.

After working for Olympic Security for eight years at the airport, 57-year-old Wadley said she continued at her job this year until the new screeners were trained and took over in October.

We're not good enough to be federal screeners, but we were good enough to screen until they got the other ones in, she said.

Wadley has worked in the security field for 17 years but has been unemployed for just over two months, she said.

Of about 26 screeners who worked for the airport prior to the new federal regulations, she said only eight were rehired by the federal government.

The suit asks the court to require immediate retesting of former airport screeners as well as those who passed the test.

Wadley said she thinks she passed the test, but said she wasn't given a reason why she wasn't hired.

We came in at 6:30 in the morning to a hotel and we couldn't leave until 4:30 in the afternoon, she said. We got nothing to eat. We couldn't leave. They treated us like prisoners.

The requirement that screeners become federal employees came about in an effort to beef up security at airports throughout the country.

According to the suit, transportation officials discriminated against former screeners who were older than 45.

Portland attorney Don S. Willner, who is representing airport screeners statewide, said he knows of at least three Jackson County residents who have signed on to the suit.

An attorney for the defendants could not be reached for comment Monday.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail