Boeing Settles Pair of Harrassment Lawsuits

The Boeing Company, based in Chicago,  agreed to pay $380,000 and administer far-reaching injunctive measures to settle two lawsuits brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
 
In one case,  (EEOC v. The Boeing Company, 05cv03034 PHX FJM) filed in 2005,  sex discrimination and retaliation claims were brought against Boeing by the EEOC on behalf of two female engineers at Boeing’s Mesa, Arizona facility.

“Betty Gomez”*
 complained of gender-based harassment, including sexist remarks, creating a hostile environment and, a few days later, she was transferred to a new unit not suitable to her skill set.  Less than two months after the transfer, Boeing laid her off, purportedly because she could not perform as well as other engineers in her new unit. 

“Instead of stopping
 the harassment or reprimanding the men who tormented me, they moved me to a unit that designed structures,” Gomez said. “I was skilled at electrical engineering. That’s like asking a heart surgeon to do brain surgery. Then they evaluated me for layoff based on my ability to perform structural work. They set me up for layoff.” 

The EEOC
 claimed Boeing managers harbored discriminatory and retaliatory motives when it transferred and terminated Gomez.  

Manufacturing
 engineer “Rita Wright”* twice complained of sex-based harassment, and twice Boeing’s internal investigators substantiated her complaints. Nonetheless, the EEOC said the company allowed her harassers to influence her layoff evaluations and reduce her scores. As a result, Wright also received a layoff notice.

The EEOC’s
 investigation showed Boeing manipulated evaluation scores used in its work force reduction process to justify the terminations of Wright and Gomez.
“An employer is only setting itself up for more trouble when it punishes a worker for exercising her right to complain about unlawful activity in the workplace,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart Ishimaru. “The EEOC is always especially concerned when we uncover this kind of unlawful retaliation. It chills witnesses and victims from reporting illegal discrimination at work, and therefore interferes dangerously with the Commission’s law enforcement efforts.” 

In an earlier lawsuit,  (EEOC v. The Boeing Company, CV-03-1210-PHX-PGR), the EEOC sought relief on behalf of “Milly Kline,”* a female mechanic at the Mesa helicopter facility. 

The EEOC charged   Boeing allowed Klines’ co-workers to harass her on an ongoing basis due to her gender and allowed one or more managers to contribute to that harassment without taking appropriate steps to address the behavior.

Much of the
 harassment directed at Kline was designed to make it more difficult for her to perform her job, the EEOC said. Male co-workers took Klines’ tools and either broke them, hid them, or changed the adjustments before returning them. Other harassment was sexual in nature. Kline reported this conduct to Boeing’s Human Resources Department, but the company did nothing to address it. As a result, the harassment continued.

The suit also
 charged Boeing retaliated against Kline for complaining about gender-based harassment. After Kline reported her co-workers’ conduct to Boeing’s Human Resources Department, a manager warned several of Klines’ co-workers to be careful of what they said to her because the manager had them on a list.

The consent
 decrees reached between the parties provide for $380,000 in monetary relief for Gomez, Wright and Kline and an injunction prohibiting future discrimination and retaliation. Further, the EEOC obtained curative relief, such as training, to prevent Boeing from engaging in any further discrimination and retaliation. (workersxzcompxzkit)

“The right
 of an employee to oppose discrimination in the workplace is fundamental,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “Employees should be able to report discrimination without fearing their employers will make the situation worse by retaliating against them.”

*Names Changed for Privacy

Author Robert Elliott, executive vice president, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers' Compensation costs, including airlines, health care, manufacturing, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. He can be contacted at: Robert_Elliott@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.


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