EEOC Drops Discrimination Bomb on Bombardier

August 27, 2003 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a religious discrimination suit on behalf of a former jet salesman at Bombardier Aerospace Corp.

>Michael Kolman, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – commonly referred to as the Mormons – alleges he was unlawfully dismissed from his job after complaining about remarks an executive made in regard to his religion.   In his allegation, Kolman says the executive told him he would be unable to entertain clients because he does not smoke or drink on account of his religious beliefs, according to an Associated Press report.

>The EEOC’s lawsuit accuses Bombardier of violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits job discrimination on the basis of religion.   The suit, filed in the US District Court in North Texas, seeks approximately $800,000 in damages, which includes back pay, unpaid commissions and punitive damages.

>William Backhaus, an EEOC attorney, said the case represented “stark religious discrimination,” and called the firing on the basis of abstinence from those two substances “one of the most ridiculous workplace outrages one could imagine.”  

>A spokesman for Bombardier Aerospace, a Dallas subsidiary of Montreal-based Bombardier Inc., told the AP the company had not seen the lawsuit and declined comment on the case, while defending the company’s record.   “From Bombardier’s point of view, we don’t discriminate against employees, and any behavior like that is absolutely not tolerated,” said the spokesman, Steve Phillips.

Alleged Remarks

>The alleged remarks came after Bombardier hired Kolman, a former salesman for Cessna Aircraft Co., in May 2001 as a regional sales director based in Atlanta. Kolman got a good performance review in June 2002 but according to Backhaus, things changed after he mentioned to his boss that he was Mormon.

>After the disclosure to Bill Monroe, Bombardier Aerospace’s vice president of sales, Kolman was told that wining and dining customers was part of a business jet salesman’s job. Kolman complained to two company personnel officials about Monroe’s comments and was fired a week later, the suit claims.

The company told the EEOC it fired Kolman for poor performance after selling three jets in 2001, and only assisting on the sale of two used jets in 2002. Kolman said officials had assured him he would have three years to prove his worth and Backhaus said nine of Bombardier’s 17 regional sales directors had no sales by then.