July 25, 2014 in Region

Engineers union accuses Boeing of age discrimination

Associated Press
 

EVERETT – The union representing engineers has filed age discrimination complaints against Boeing, saying that older employees are being targeted for layoffs.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace filed complaints against the aerospace giant at the state Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Everett Herald reported Thursday.

The union alleges that Boeing used a two-step scheme to shed older, higher-skilled engineers from its payrolls. The union says Boeing changed how it determines who gets laid off when work is cut, and then it created the need for layoffs by announcing plans to move jobs to nonunion shops out of metro Puget Sound. At least 4,500 workers are affected by the company’s actions, Ray Goforth, SPEEA’s executive director, told the newspaper.

“It dramatically shifts who is positioned for future layoffs,” Goforth said. Boeing denies the allegations.

The company said “diversifying” its engineer workforce reflects changes in the aerospace industry and is not related to age.

Sometime before March, the company changed how it assigns what are called retention rankings, which determine the order by which employees are laid off if jobs are cut. The rating system puts each worker in one of three tiers – R1, R2 or R3 – with R1 being the best rating and last to be laid off.

Previously, the company ranked employees relative to everyone doing the same job. So, for example, an electrical engineer would be ranked relative to every other electrical engineer at Boeing, Goforth said.

Since the system was meant to insulate the highest-value employees from layoffs, a highly skilled and experienced worker was much more likely to get an R1 ranking than a new hire fresh out of college. But that changed when Boeing tweaked the system ahead of its annual update of retention rankings in March, Goforth said.

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