$72.5 million to pay Boeing Co., to settle sex-discrimination lawsuit

The Boeing Co. has agreed to pay $72.5 million (Ђ62 million) to thousands of women to settle a class-action action sex-discrimination lawsuit, according to a local media report Saturday.

The payout, revealed in documents filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, is the maximum allowed under a settlement agreement that won preliminary approval from a federal judge last year, The Seattle Times reported.

As part of the deal, Boeing admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to change its hiring, pay, promotion practices and how it investigates employee complaints.

"We've moved ahead on numerous fronts in making improvements to our work environment," John Dern, a spokesman at Boeing's corporate headquarters in Chicago, told The Seattle Times.

If the plaintiffs' motion for speedy payment is granted, checks could be in the mail to some 17,960 current and former female Boeing employees by Christmas.

Otherwise, the aerospace titan has until Jan. 14 to pay a court administrator, who will then issue checks to class members according to seniority and position.

In all, more than 20,000 current and former female employees out of a potential pool of 29,000 said Boeing discriminated against them at Seattle-area plants between 1997 and 2000.

Of those claims, nearly 2,400 were thrown out for filing irregularities, including failure to meet a May 3, 2005, deadline.

"It's revealing that over 60 percent of female employees filed claims in most class-action suits a 30 percent response rate is typical," said Mike Helgren, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit, filed in 2000, alleged a pattern of discrimination at Boeing.

According to company documents obtained by the plaintiffs, women typically earned $1,000 -$2,000 (Ђ855 -Ђ1,710) less each year than men for similar jobs a disparity magnified over time by the company's policy of calculating pay raises based on an employee's salary.

Another discrimination lawsuit, filed on behalf of 15,000 African-American Boeing employees, is scheduled to begin in federal court on Dec. 5.

That case was originally settled in 1999 for $11.3 million (Ђ9.7 million), but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted plaintiffs' request for a retrial because of a dispute over the fairness of the award, reported AP.

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