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Dismissal of former Boeing workers' age discrimination suit upheld on appeal


Former Boeing Co. workers have failed to provide sufficient proof they were the targets of age discrimination as a result of a deal in which Boeing sold operations in Kansas and Oklahoma to a new company that did not rehire all of its workers, said a federal appellate court in a ruling Monday.

According to the ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in Perry Apsley et al. v. The Boeing Co., The Onex Corp. and Spirit AeroSystems Inc., Chicago-based Boeing sold facilities in Wichita, Kan., and Tulsa and McAlester, Okla., to Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems Inc. in 2005.

On June 16, 2005, Boeing terminated the division's entire workforce of more than 10,000, and the next day Spirit, which has a long-term supply agreement with Boeing, rehired 8,354 workers who had been selected by Boeing's managers.

“Although older employees predominated in the workforce both before and after the sale, a lower percentage of older workers than younger ones were rehired,” said the appellate court in its ruling.

“According to the companies, the new company would save money by paying its employees less and increasing productivity,” said the ruling. However, the employees argued the companies planned to cut costs “by getting rid of older, more expensive workers.”

The workers filed suit on behalf of 700 former Boeing employees who were not rehired by Spirit, charging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A lower court dismissed all the employees' claims except for their individual claims for disparate treatment under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The three-judge appellate panel unanimously upheld the lower court's ruling.

“Although the employees have provided evidence that discrimination occurred during Boeing's divestiture of the division, we agree with the district court that the employees cannot prove a pattern or practice of age discrimination,” the ruling said.

“And while older employees fared slightly worse than younger ones in the divestiture, the employees are unable to show that the companies' hiring practices had a significant disparate impact on older workers.

“We also agree with the district court that the employees cannot show that the companies acted with the specific intent to interfere with their attainment of pension benefits” said the ruling.