Boeing Wins Latest Battle in Racial Discrimination Fight

December 22, 2005 ( - Boeing Company employees have lost their legal bid to hold the aerospace giant responsible for racial discrimination.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a federal jury rejected claims that Boeing had discriminated against employee Solomon Williams, as well as 29 other named plaintiffs and the class of 4,000 African American salaried workers. The jury had spent two days deliberating.

However, according to the news report, the case is not yet over. A separate part of the case remains to be decided by US District Judge Marsha Pechman of the US District Court for the Western District of Washington. She will decide whether company policies may have unintentionally allowed for discrimination, under what is known as a “disparate-impact” claim.

Pechman will make that decision as a bench ruling, having dismissed the jury on Wednesday, said Rebecca Peterson, a spokeswoman for plaintiffs’ attorneys Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, of Seattle.

Boeing, the Chicago-based aerospace giant whose sprawling factories constitute the largest single employer in the Puget Sound region, said it was happy with its initial victory. The company felt strongly that its promotion processes are fair, and we are very pleased that the jury agreed,” the company said in a statement, according to the Post-Intelligencer.

The lawsuit was filed in 1998. Both sides agreed to a $15-million settlement in 1999. That accord was set aside in 2003 by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after some workers objected that the settlement was unfair, partly because $4 million of the money would have gone to the plaintiffs’ lawyers (See “Inflated” Atty Fees Too Much for Boeing Settlement ).

The original plaintiffs group covered about 15,000 workers. After the workers filed a new complaint, Pechman narrowed it to about 4,000. She found the workers had filed too late to pursue their claims of discrimination in a class action.

The ruling in Williams v. Boeing Co., C98-761P, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington is here .

In a previous discrimination case, Boeing agreed to pay $72.5 million to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by female workers who said they were denied pay and promotions. (See Boeing Discrimination Settlement Award put at $72.5M ).