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Boeing's engineers union investigating possible age discrimination

Earlier this month, airplane manufacturing giant Boeing made headlines when it announced that it would be adding 1,000 engineering positions here in Southern California. While the announcement was undoubtedly met with great enthusiasm by some, it has also generated a fair amount of controversy.

That's because it was subsequently revealed that these California positions came about after massive layoffs from the company's Commercial Aviation Services unit based in the Seattle-area.

In recent developments, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace has indicated that it is currently conducting an analysis to determine whether Boeing's recent terminations were motivated by age discrimination.

According to a senior SPEEA official, the prevailing belief among the laid off Boeing engineers is that the company was looking to replace the older workers earning higher wages with entry-level personnel who they could pay substantially less.

"By laying people off by the thousand, and telling them they'll be allowed to apply for their own jobs, it's a way for employers to be able to get rid of old employees, and avoid wage discrimination," said the senior SPEEA official.

In the event its analysis determines that Boeing's decision was indeed motivated by age discrimination, SPEEA has indicated that it will file charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

For their part, Boeing has stated that the layoffs were in no way motivated by employment discrimination, but rather by "a long-term strategic vision."

While it will be interesting to see what the union analysis uncovers, it is worth noting that SPEEA recently filed charges with the EEOC against Spirit AeroSystems Inc., alleging that the company's termination of 360 engineers back in July 2013 was based on both age and infirmity.

"We uncovered a scheme that showed management at Spirit using the sick-leave records to target people for layoffs," said the senior SPEEA official. "We suspect there is a similar scheme going on here, although Boeing will probably be much more sophisticated about it."

Stay tuned for updates on this developing story.

In the meantime, those people who feel as if they have been terminated or otherwise treated unfairly on the basis of age, race, gender or other protected grounds should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about their rights and their options.

Source: The Puget Sound Business Journal, "Boeing's job shift to California may spur suit on age discrimination: engineers union," Steven Wilhelm, April 11, 2014

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