The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can proceed in a case it filed on behalf of two women who claim they were terminated after reduction-in-force assessments at the Boeing Co. because of sex discrimination, says a federal appeals court in a ruling that overturns a lower court’s opinion.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also held in its decision Tuesday, August 18, in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. The Boeing Co. that one of the plaintiffs could proceed with her retaliation claim.
According to the decision, plaintiff Antonia Castron worked in the electrical engineering department at Chicago-based Boeing from 1997 until 2003. Her supervisor “frequently made negative comments about women,” but refused her request to transfer to a particular work group, the opinion says.
Instead, he eventually transferred her to another group that “required substantially different skills” than the ones used at her previous post. Furthermore, the supervisor at her new group referred to her as a “little girl,” according to the opinion.
Based on the supervisor’s comments, “a jury might reasonably infer that [his] decision to transfer Castron, rather than a male co-worker about whom she complained, to a new position where her job was less secure may have resulted from improper motivations, including discriminatory intent, retaliatory intent or both,” the decision says. The supervisor may have “deliberately set Castron up to fail,” it said.
Similarly, after Boeing substantiated plaintiff Renee Wrede’s complaint of sexual harassment by her direct supervisor, she was transferred to another group. Although several men subsequently received lower evaluations, she was the only one to be terminated in a reduction in force.
A jury also could reasonably conclude in Wrede’s case that her discharge “resulted from discrimination on account of sex,” says the opinion, which remands the case for further proceedings.