GE Hit with Racial Discrimination Complaint

May 18, 2005 ( - An African American executive at General Electric has filed a federal lawsuit against the company alleging that it discriminates against African American managers by not promoting them and paying them less than white counterparts.

Michael Thomas, chief executive and president of GE Aviation Materials, 80%-owned by GE and 20% by France’s Snecma Moteurs, sought in the suit, filed in US District Court in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to have the case certified as a class action on behalf of 4,500 African-American professional GE employees, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The giant corporation issued a statement saying it “flatly denies the allegations in Thomas’ complaint and will clearly defend this lawsuit,” the Journal reported.

The 43-year-old Thomas said he was retaliated against earlier this year after questioning GE’s pay, bonus and perk system, and then changing it within the aviation unit he now leads, according to the Journal. The executive charged that GE officials informed him he would get no salary increase or stock options, despite having increased operating profits, and that executives told him he didn’t have the necessary leadership ability and should leave the company altogether.

GE spokesman Rick Kennedy acknowledged to the Journal that there were discussions with Thomas over his leadership style but said that Thomas hasn’t been suspended as the unit’s CEO. The company pointed to Thomas’s 36-month GE tenure to prove its contention that doesn’t treat African Americans differently than other employees, the newspaper said.

African-American managers make up about 3.3% of GE’s 180 officers, the highest level, and 3.6% of GE’s 4,500 “executive band” – the rank Thomas achieved, according to the newspaper.