A bus driver sued the Antelope Valley Transit Authority (AVTA) this week for allegedly firing her because of her physical disability, race and gender.
Attorneys for Yvette Holmes contend that the AVTA and its executive director, Len Engel, violated federal and state law by unjustly terminating her decade-long employment after bus exhaust fumes caused her to have respiratory problems, making her unable to drive the few buses in the system that emit fumes into the passenger cabin.
Engel said he could not comment, because he hadn’t yet seen the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, seeks to have a judge order AVTA to rehire Holmes, and to “stop AVTA from continuing its pattern of violating drivers’ rights and change its procedures to ensure due process.”
Holmes’ attorney, Julie Gutman Dickinson, alleges that the High Desert transportation agency has a history of unfairly targeting Black, female drivers.
“My client’s story is one of many that have been told to me by drivers for the Antelope Valley Transportation Authority,” Dickinson said. “We have found there are several other African American women who have been discriminated against by White AVTA executives over the years.
“These women were the only ones AVTA invoked immediate removal procedures against, even though Latino and White male drivers have engaged in serious misconduct,” she alleged. “This lawsuit isn’t just about Yvette Holmes. It’s about all the female African American drivers for AVTA who have suffered at the hands of discrimination.”
Holmes, 56, of Lancaster, now covers a full-time shift driving a Metro bus in Los Angeles, her attorney said.
Dickinson alleges that Holmes was never afforded due process rights under the contract between AVTA and Transdev—a private bus operator and maintenance corporation that contracts with AVTA—or her union’s agreement with Transdev.
“She was never asked to give her account of what happened that day and was never given a hearing after her removal,” the attorney said. “AVTA also coerced Transdev into removing Holmes from her employment at AVTA because of her race, sex, and disability.”
As for Holmes, she said that she takes “great pride in the work I do as a bus operator and I enjoyed working in the Antelope Valley, near my husband and in my own community. All I want is to be able to defend the alleged violations against me and continue serving the High Desert community bus riders,” she said.