African American Employees Win Class Certification in Discrimination Suit Against Boeing
SEATTLE – A group of African American Boeing employees won a major legal victory on Friday, when U.S. District Court judge Marsha Pechman certified a class-action lawsuit against The Boeing Company (NYSE: BA), charging that it discriminates against Blacks in compensation and promotions.
Originally filed in March 1998, the nationwide suit alleges that racial discrimination, retaliation and a hostile work environment is commonplace at Boeing manufacturing plants. Though Boeing reached a settlement with the original plaintiffs in 1999, a group of Black employees felt the settlement was inadequate and appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court agreed that the settlement was flawed and rejected it, sending it back to District Court. In 2003, the law firm of Hagens Berman was appointed lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
Steve Berman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said that class certification is the first step towards justice for the employees.
"This decision is a significant win for African Americans who seek to have their day in court and remedy the constant pattern of discriminatory pay and promotion against them," said Berman. "As our case moves forward, we intend to present convincing evidence showing that Boeing has intentional, company-wide policies that foster discrimination against Black workers."
The class represents approximately 15,000 individuals and includes all African American salaried employees, excluding executives and SPEEA technicians, employed by Boeing from June 6, 1994 to the present. The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief, back pay and punitive damages for racial discrimination in compensation and promotion.
Judge Pechman ruled that the class certification does not include employees at companies acquired by Boeing, such as Rockwell International and McDonnell Douglas Corporation. However, Steve Berman believes that justice will be served for disenfranchised employees at those locations as well.
"This case has laid the groundwork for all those who have been injured by Boeing's practices," Berman said. "We intend to hold Boeing fully responsible for their discriminatory policies and are filing today in Chicago a class action on behalf of African American employees who are employed at Boeing non-Heritage sites, including California, St. Louis, Texas, and former McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell sites."
The suit will be tried in two phases: a jury trial to determine if Boeing is liable for the unequal treatment of employees, and a bench trial where the court will determine if the company's employment policies cause a disparate impact on the class. The jury trial portion is scheduled for December 5, 2005.
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