Boeing's white-collar union files age discrimination complaint

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The white-collar union at Boeing Co. said Thursday that it has filed charges of age discrimination against Boeing with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Washington's Human Rights Commission, alleging the company's approach to more than 2,500 layoffs since last year "doubled, tripled, and quadrupled layoff vulnerability for older employees."

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which represents 25,000 engineers and technical workers in Puget Sound and elsewhere, said Boeing engaged in "secret manipulation of the ranking factors" that determine which employees are kept when jobs are moved or restructured, and then "announced a series of work movements and reorganizations to implement the manipulated layoff order."

Ray Goforth, the union's executive director, said in a statement that the movement of work "is merely a pretext for the wholesale purge of Boeing's older workforce."

Boeing, in an emailed statement, said it "does not discriminate against its employees on any basis."

"Diversifying our engineering workforce reflects changes in our business and is not related to the age of our employees," the statement said. "We're disappointed that SPEEA filed this baseless complaint."

The company has moved some engineering work from the Puget Sound area in a series of steps since early 2013.

It announced 1,500 IT jobs would be shifted to St. Louis and North Charleston, S.C. In April of this year, it told employees 1,000 engineering jobs supporting in-service airplanes would be relocated to California by the end of 2015, after two similar shifts to California in 2013 that totaled 675 jobs.

And in December, management told employees at its advanced central research-and-development unit, known as Boeing Research & Technology, that about 1,000 jobs will be moved by the end of 2015 to new technology research centers in Huntsville, Ala.; St. Louis and North Charleston.

Boeing executives have said the changes will lower the company's costs and create new "centers of excellence" in different fields.

A company spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the age discrimination case.