Boeing settles sex discrimination suits - East Valley Tribune: News

Boeing settles sex discrimination suits

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Posted: Monday, February 1, 2010 3:59 pm | Updated: 3:45 pm, Thu Mar 22, 2012.

The Boeing Co. agreed to pay $380,000 to settle claims that three female employees at its Mesa helicopter plant suffered sex discrimination.

Ex-Boeing workers can sue for discrimination

Two lawsuits involving the three women were brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.

Boeing spokesman John Williamson said the company decided to sign the consent decrees because it was “in the best interest of the company.”

The company admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, he said.

Williamson said the cases initially were dismissed by two Federal District Court judges in Phoenix who found there were insufficient facts to substantiate the discrimination claims, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the cases to be tried.

The cases had been scheduled to go to trial in about two weeks before the settlement was reached, according to the EEOC.

“The requirement in the decrees align with existing and effective Boeing policies and procedures for reporting, investigating and remedying improper conduct,” Williamson said in a written statement. “In accordance with the decrees, we will be reviewing those policies and procedures and make any changes needed.”

In one case filed in 2005, the EEOC made sex-discrimination and retaliation claims on behalf of two female engineers at the plant at 5000 E. McDowell Road. One of the women, Antonia Castron, complained of gender-based harassments in August 2002 and a few days later was transferred to a new unit that did not suit her skills, the federal agency said.

She was laid off less than two months later, purportedly because she could not perform as well as other engineers in her new unit, the commission said. Castron, an electrical engineer, was transferred to a unit that designed structures.

“That’s like asking a heart surgeon to do brain surgery,” Castron said in a written statement. “Then they evaluated me for layoff based on my ability to perform structural work. They set me up for lay-off.”

The EEOC alleged that Boeing managers harbored retaliatory motives when Castron was transferred and terminated.

The other engineer in the suit, Renee Wrede, twice complained of sex-based harassment, and twice Boeing internal investigators substantiated her complaints, the EEOC said.

Nevertheless, the company allowed her harassers to influence a decision to lay her off in October 2002, when the company reduced its work force, the commission alleged.

The EEOC said its investigation showed Boeing manipulated evaluation scores used in an October 2002 layoff to justify the terminations of Wrede and Castron.

In the second suit, the EEOC sought relief on behalf of Kelley Miles, a female mechanic who works on Apache helicopters assembled at the Mesa plant. The EEOC alleged Boeing allowed Miles’ co-workers to harass her due to her gender, including taking actions that made it more difficult for her to do her job.

Those actions included taking Miles’ tools and breaking them, hiding them or changing the adjustments before returning them, the EEOC said.

Miles reported the conduct to the Boeing human relations department, but the harassment continued, the agency said. Miles was not laid off and continues to work for the company, said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC.

Also Wrede was rehired by Boeing last week to work on the company’s new 787 commercial airliner in Charleston, S.C., O’Neill said.

In addition to making the monetary payments, Boeing agreed to give managers at the Mesa plant additional training in sex-discrimination laws and to incorporate into their performance reviews how well managers are complying with EEOC laws, O’Neill said.

“We believe getting managers to be held accountable in their evaluations is one of the most effective ways of getting change,” she said.

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