Ninth Circuit Returns EEOC Lawsuit to Lower Court for Trial in Arizona
PHOENIX – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a decision by a lower court which had concluded that The Boeing Company did not engage in unlawful sexual harassment or retaliation at its plant in Mesa, Ariz. The court of appeals returned the case to Arizona for trial.
In the lawsuit (EEOC v. The Boeing Company, CV-03-1210-PHX-PGR), the EEOC seeks relief on behalf of Kelley Miles, a female mechanic who works on the Apache helicopter that Boeing manufactures for the U.S. Army. Miles works at Boeing’s facility in Mesa.
In the appellate decision (EEOC v. The Boeing Company, No. 05-17386, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, July 31, 2008), the court of appeals reversed the district court’s decision because it concluded that there exist triable issues of fact as to whether Miles was subjected to a hostile work environment based on her sex, whether Boeing adequately responded to her complaints, and whether Boeing retaliated against Miles for complaining of the harassment.
The court of appeals concluded that, based on the evidence, a reasonable jury could infer that Miles was subject to sexual harassment by her co-workers. According to the court, “Miles and others testified that, from 1998 to 2001, Miles was the target of offensive and sexual language, as well as physical advances by a male co-worker, and that male co-workers interfered with various aspects of her work.”
The court of appeals also concluded that the EEOC raised triable issues of fact as to whether Boeing adequately responded to Miles’ complaints of harassment. The court noted that, although Boeing terminated one offending male employee and disciplined another, “a reasonable jury could find that these two employees were part of a much larger problem with respect to Miles’ treatment.” According to the court, there was evidence that the employee who was eventually terminated had been transferred into Miles’s department because he had repeatedly harassed other female employees. The court added that evidence also existed showing that the harassment continued even after Boeing took its initial measures, and the company knew or should have known that the problems were continuing.
Finally, the court of appeals concluded that there existed triable issues of fact on the EEOC’s retaliation claim because events occurring after Miles complained of the harassment could cause a reasonable jury to conclude that Miles was subject to an ongoing hostile work environment, and that Boeing knew or should have known about it.
The case has been remanded to a United States District Judge in Arizona for trial.
“The EEOC is gratified by the decision of the Ninth Circuit on appeal,” said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the Phoenix District Office. “We are very appreciative of the great work done by our Appellate Services Division in Washington, particularly appellate attorney Jim Tucker. We look forward to presenting the details of Ms. Miles’ treatment at trial.”
EEOC Phoenix District Director Chester Bailey added, “Studies have shown that female employees are often subjected to harassment when they work in non-traditional settings. Such harassment often has the effect of driving female employees out of non- traditional workplaces, which generally offer higher wages than those offered to women performing traditionally female jobs.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on August 7, 2008.
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