Sun, Jul 18, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Boeing agrees to settle discrimination suit for US$40.6m


Boeing Co has agreed to pay between US$40.6 million and US$72.5 million and change some of its practices to settle charges that the aerospace giant discriminated against women who have worked for Boeing in the Seattle area.

The settlement of the class-action suit filed in 2000 received preliminary approval in US District Court here Friday. It calls on Boeing to change the way it determines starting salaries, modify its performance-evaluation tools and monitor salaries and overtime to reduce the risk of gender discrimination.

Under the settlement, women who are part of the Seattle-area class will receive a minimum payment of US$500 and could receive tens of thousands of dollars, according to the plaintiffs' law firm.

Michael Helgren, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, said the payouts will depend on how many years the woman worked at Boeing, and in what job.

The class includes about 29,000 Puget Sound-area women who worked at Boeing between 1997 and the present, either in salaried positions or under the representation of the International Association of Machinists.

Area executives and engineers represented by another union, the Society of Profesional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, are not part of the lawsuit.

The company's behavior will be watched by attorneys for the next three years to ensure Boeing is meeting terms of the settlement.

Boeing has been based in Chicago since 2001, but much of its commercial airplane manufacturing operations remain in the Seattle area.

The amount that Boeing ultimately pays will depend on how many women file valid claims. The sums that Boeing has agreed to pay also includes payments to attorneys and administrative expenses.

In the lawsuit filed in February 2000, current and former female workers in the region accused Boeing of discrimination.

Since then, Helgren said Boeing has spent millions of dollars to reduce the disparities in pay between women and men. He said the settlement is to ensure that Boeing doesn't revert back to past practices, and also so the women are compensated for past pay gaps.

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