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US: Seattle jury clears Boeing in racial lawsuit

December 21st, 2005

A federal jury in Seattle on Wednesday cleared Boeing Co. in a lawsuit brought by 4,000 black salaried employees, who claimed they were passed over for promotions because of racial discrimination.

The jury deliberated about a day before reaching the unanimous verdict, which cleared Boeing of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The lawsuit, which went to trial earlier this month in Seattle federal court, centered on the treatment of some 4,000 Boeing salaried workers across the United States and on whether the company followed federal affirmative action guidelines for government contractors.

"The company felt strongly that its promotion processes are fair, and we are very pleased that the jury agreed," Peter Conte, a Boeing spokesman, said.

"Having said that, the verdict for the company does not mean these employees were wrong to express their concerns. If our employees have concerns, we hope they will bring them forward to us," he said.

In 1999, Boeing had settled a suit brought by about 15,000 black employees for about $15 million.

But that settlement was thrown out by a federal appeals court that ruled attorney fees were too high at roughly $4 million and that the settlement had not been fairly distributed.

Boeing, which has its corporate headquarters in Chicago but maintains its commercial jet production in Seattle, admitted no wrongdoing in that settlement.

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