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Federal judge dismisses 35 plaintiffs from lawsuit against Boeing, Spirit

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, June 3, 2014, at 4:50 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, June 13, 2014, at 7:01 a.m.

A Kansas federal judge last week dismissed 35 plaintiffs from a lawsuit alleging that Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems terminated employees because of their age.

Judge Eric Melgren said the plaintiffs failed to comply with orders to respond to repeated discovery requests for information and documents.

The suit stems from Boeing’s sale of its commercial aircraft operations in Wichita, Tulsa and McAlester, Okla., to Onex Corp. in 2005.

According to the initial lawsuit, Boeing fired more than 10,000 employees from the three sites before the sale, which included a disproportionate number of older workers.

Spirit rehired more than 8,300 of those workers, but it was less likely to hire the older workers, the original lawsuit alleges, a move that violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, it says.

“In failing to adequately protect the rights of the older workers, the defendants have injured not only these employees, but their families and loved ones as well,” the lawsuit alleges.

In 2010, Melgren granted a motion challenging the class-action status of the lawsuit. The judge, ruling in favor of Boeing and Spirit, said that the plaintiffs, former Boeing workers who did not get hired by Spirit, were unable to show that the companies fostered a corporate culture of age bias.

The former employees appealed the decision, but it was upheld by the Court of Appeals.

Last year, the District Court allowed the plaintiffs to file a complaint asserting individual claims against the company.

Boeing and Spirit also sought to sever 86 plaintiffs from the lawsuit, saying they had improperly grouped age discrimination claims under the federal age discrimination law and that the case was administratively infeasible, according to a roundup of events by Law360, an online legal news publication.

The court denied the motion.

In March, Boeing and Spirit took issue with the discovery process in the lawsuit, saying plaintiffs should be sanctioned for failing to produce documents, Law360 said.

Of the 77 plaintiffs in the case, 11 had completed the paperwork they were served, it said.

The plaintiffs agreed to comply with discovery requests by April, but 35 failed to make good on that stipulation, it said.

The plaintiffs are represented by James Gore of Williamson Law Firm. Boeing and Spirit are represented by Trisha Thelen and James Armstrong of Foulston Siefkin.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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