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As Boeing incident shows, victims of workplace racism may enjoy newfound empowerment

Zero-tolerance policies on workplace discrimination are being put to the test as #BlackLivesMatter protests demand action against systemic racism in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

On Tuesday, Boeing alerted law enforcement and launched an internal investigation at its Everett jet assembly plant after a Black manager found racist symbols on his desk when he got into the office, according to the Seattle Times.

In an email on Wednesday to some 65,000 employees, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal warned that “racial discrimination, harassment and acts of intimidation will never be tolerated anywhere within Boeing,” pledging to take “every action possible, including termination, for anyone involved in this incident.”

Deal said the company had dismissed several employees in the past few days “after a thorough investigation found they engaged in behavior that is not consistent with our values.”

While Boeing’s attempts to punish racist employees and resolve such issues internally are welcome, victims of workplace discrimination have legal recourse in some cases and may seek compensatory damages.

Learn more about legal recourse to workplace discrimination

Boeing’s CEO Dave Calhoun released a statement four days after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, emphasizing the company’s stance on workplace discrimination.

“You can be certain that when unacceptable acts of discrimination happen inside Boeing, the tolerance of this company for the people who engage in them will be precisely zero,” Calhoun said, noting that Boeing plans to double the $25 million the company has invested in partnerships that boost marginalized communities.

The company’s public position against racism in recent weeks is a far cry from its checkered past. Boeing and its unions have a history of racism that only in recent decades has been supplanted by a policy of inclusion and diversity.

Boeing didn’t hire its first Black employee until the Second World War, when the war effort required all hands on deck, the Seattle Times notes. Up until then, the airplane maker’s machinists union accepted only “members of the white race.”

On Wednesday, International Association of Machinists (IAM) District 751 president Jon Holden condemned the racist incident in Everett and pledged to “work to provide a safe, discrimination-free workplace everywhere the IAM represents workers,” he told the Seattle Times in an email.

If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace, or have an L&I, workers’ comp or other employment law claim, call Emery Reddy to find out how we can help. You won’t get better advice.

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