Boeing didn't discriminate against black salaried employees in promotions, a federal jury in Seattle found, rejecting a claim filed on behalf...

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Boeing didn’t discriminate against black salaried employees in promotions, a federal jury in Seattle found, rejecting a claim filed on behalf of about 4,000 workers.

The class-action lawsuit claimed Boeing, starting in 1994, denied promotions, discouraged blacks from applying for higher positions and failed to enforce company antidiscrimination policies. Boeing denied any discrimination, and the jury Wednesday agreed.

The verdict comes in a case Boeing had initially settled for $15 million. An appeals court reversed the settlement in 2002 as unfair and sent it back to federal court in Seattle, where the class was reduced from 15,000 to about 4,200. The lawsuit covered black salaried workers at plants in states including Washington, Kansas and Pennsylvania.

“From an investor and corporate-citizen perspective, this favorable verdict helps Boeing’s reputation, since it serves as an example that it is committed to good ethical practices,” said Matthew Spahn, a New York analyst with TCW Group, which owned more than 2.36 million Boeing shares at the end of September.

Attorneys for the workers said through spokeswoman Rebecca Peterson that they haven’t yet decided whether to appeal the verdict.

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman is still expected to rule on whether Boeing policies resulted in unintentional discrimination.

“The company felt strongly that its promotion processes are fair and we are very pleased that the jury agreed,” said Boeing spokesman Peter Conte in an e-mailed statement.

“Having said that, the verdict for the company does not mean these employees were wrong to express their concerns,” Conte wrote. “It’s important for employees to feel that their concerns are addressed through meaningful action.”

The lawsuit was filed in 1998 and was settled the next year.

That $15 million accord was reversed in November 2002 by a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, after some workers claimed the settlement was unfair, partly because $4 million of the money would have gone to plaintiffs’ lawyers.

In 2003, the full appeals court denied a rehearing, affirming the reversal.

After the workers filed a new complaint, Pechman, who presided at the trial, narrowed the class to about 4,000. She found workers had filed too late to pursue in a class action their claims of discrimination in compensation.

The workers didn’t ask for a specific amount of money, because the jury wasn’t scheduled to determine damages if it found discrimination in this phase of the trial.

The lawsuit covered black salaried workers at “heritage” Boeing — facilities the company owned before it acquired McDonnell Douglas and other companies in the late 1990s and 2000.

“The facilities involved are those associated to pre-merger Boeing,” Conte said. “The major ones were the Puget Sound, Wichita and Philadelphia facilities,” he said.

Boeing agreed to pay $72.5 million last year to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by woman workers who said they were denied pay and promotions.

Seattle Times business staff contributed to this report.