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Boeing Sued for Workplace Discrimination & Harassment


Recent allegations against aerospace giant Boeing shed light on the issue of workplace discrimination and harassment. Rachel Rasmussen, a former Boeing crane mechanic aged 55, filed a lawsuit against Boeing in a federal district court in Seattle in late February.

Rasmussen claims that Boeing violated Washington’s laws on harassment, discrimination, and workplace retaliation. In the lawsuit, Rasmussen recounts years of mistreatment following her decision to transition in 2010. She had been with Boeing for almost two decades, joining in 1989 and progressing through the company's hierarchy. Rasmussen notes that she had never felt unsafe at work before her transition.

Former Boeing Employee Experienced LGBTQ+ Discrimination & Harassment

The lawsuit entails many instances of harassment and discrimination Rasmussen experienced. For example, When Rasmussen reported that her manager made an anti-gay joke, she found herself facing a one-day suspension over parking tickets. Later on, when Rasmussen reported a co-worker for sexual assault, Boeing suspended the co-worker for one day. Applying the same punishment for Rasmussen's alleged parking violation.

Rasmussen recalls feeling unsafe, mentioning a persistent sense of anxiety and abandonment. Despite private acknowledgment from her colleagues that the situation was unjust, they hesitated to voice concerns for fear of the same treatment.

The lawsuit outlines other examples of harassment Rasmussen experienced. These included:

  • Co-workers using homophobic slurs during a diversity training session
  • Showing before and after photos of Rasmussen throughout the office
  • Deliberately using her previous name (deadname) before transitioning
  • A co-worker demonstrating how sex is "supposed" to work using a nut and bolt

Rasmussen's Reports Were Dismissed

According to the lawsuit, Rasmussen reported her experience to management multiple times. In 2015, in an email to a senior manager, Rasmussen wrote that "work feels like an abusive relationship.”

In 2020, she wrote in an email to a Boeing vice president that she wanted to feel “safe and valued.” The email continues to note that her “First twenty years here as a straight, white guy was effortless." However, her last decade as a lesbian trans-woman "have been filled with trauma and problems.”

Despite Rasmussen's reports to Boeing's human resources department, the company never took action. According to the lawsuit, at one point, an HR representative said that she had to give co-workers an opportunity to adjust to her being transgender. In another instance, HR stated, "we can't force employees to like you or speak to you."

In 2021, Rasmussen took on a diversity, equity, and inclusion role within the company as a means to escape the mistreatment she faced. However, Boeing eliminated her DEI role in January, and two months later, Rasmussen was still unemployed. It is currently unclear whether Boeing eliminated other DEI roles at the time. Since losing her job though, Rasmussen has applied for 29 internal job openings but has only been offered entry-level roles, even with her nearly 35 years with the company.

The lawsuit reads, "Rather than changing its culture to emphasize safety, Boeing forced out a good employee who refused to stay silent about employee rights."

Boeing's Manufacturing & Quality Control Process Issues May Be Tied to Retaliation

Boeing is under intense scrutiny not only due to Rasmussen's lawsuit but also because of concerns surrounding its manufacturing and quality-control practices. An incident in January, where a fuselage panel detached mid-flight on a Boeing 737 MAX 9, triggered investigations that revealed mishandling in the installation of a door plug meant for emergency exits in certain high-density seating aircraft.

This event, along with others, prompted federal safety regulators to delve into Boeing’s safety culture and quality-control processes. A recent report following the tragic crashes involving Boeing MAX planes in 2018 and 2019, highlighted a failure in the company's efforts to enhance its safety culture comprehensively. There appears to be a significant gap between the safety-focused messages from Boeing's top management and the perceptions of front-line employees.

In response, Boeing has announced safety stand-down days to allow employees to engage in training and voice concerns for enhancements. Rasmussen emphasized that her concerns regarding Boeing's manufacturing and quality-control practices are interlinked. She pointed out that if employees feel unsafe reporting harassment, they are unlikely to feel secure reporting safety issues.

Boeing's Past Harassment & Discrimination Allegations

Boeing has faced similar allegations regarding its workplace culture in the past.

Past cases include:

LGBTQ Discrimination in the Workplace

As noted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in all employment aspects, such as hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and other employment conditions, is unlawful.

The EEOC also states that it is illegal to "subject an employee to workplace harassment that creates a hostile work environment based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

Despite existing laws, discrimination and harassment against LGBTQ+ employees persists. According to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress, half of LGBTQI+ adult respondents reported facing workplace discrimination or harassment in the last year due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex status. This includes being denied promotions, having work hours reduced, being terminated, or enduring verbal, sexual, or physical harassment.

Contact Our Team Today

Employees are entitled to a safe workplace and have the right to it. If you or a loved one have faced LGBTQ+ harassment at work, don't hesitate to reach out to our team at Shellist Lazarz Slobin. Our dedicated LGBT discrimination attorneys are committed to advocating for our clients.

Get in touch with us online or call (713) 352-3433 to begin.

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