Archive for Friday, November 19, 2004

Lawmaker gets $2.5M in Boeing age-bias suit

November 19, 2004

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— A 59-year-old engineer who accused Boeing Co. of age discrimination has won a $2.5 million verdict in a federal lawsuit claiming he was wrongly denied assignment as a test pilot three years ago.

State Rep. Mario Goico, a veteran pilot who has worked at Chicago-based Boeing's Wichita plant for more than 20 years, argued that bias against his Cuban heritage also contributed to his being passed over for the higher-paying job.

The verdict, returned Wednesday by a U.S. District Court jury, includes $1.5 million in punitive damages intended to deter similar behavior. The jury awarded Goico $370,000 in what he would have been paid as a test pilot, $31,000 in back pay and $625,000 for pain and suffering.

Senior U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown could lower the award under laws that limit liability.

Goico, R-Wichita, said justice had prevailed.

"I'm glad I went over there and I showed the facts of the case and the jurors saw the truth of what had occurred," said Goico, whose attorneys had noted his long experience as a pilot with Boeing, Cessna and the Kansas Air National Guard, which he joined in 1970.

Company spokesman Dick Ziegler said Boeing was "very disappointed" with the verdict. The company has not decided whether it will appeal.

Goico applied for the higher-paying position after Boeing received approval in 2001 to use its own test pilots in its modification of KC-135 tankers. Previously, test pilots from Seattle had done the work.

The chief pilot in Boeing's new program told Goico that the company wanted to hire younger pilots, according to testimony about why he was passed over for the assignment.

"Although he was reprimanded for that comment, he received an excellent evaluation and a raise," said Jeff Spahn, one of Goico's lawyers. "We feel Boeing was saying one thing and doing another."

Goico said he began receiving bad performance reviews after complaining of discrimination.

"He has a high amount of respect for Boeing, but he thought they did the wrong thing in this instance, and the jury agreed," Spahn said.

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