A female helicopter mechanic who alleges she was the target of on-the-job sexual harassment at the Boeing Co. in Mesa has won another day in court.
Kelley Miles filed a lawsuit in 2001 against Boeing contending that for three years she was subject to offensive and sexual language, suffered physical advances by a male co-worker and was harassed because she is female.
However, a lower district court in Phoenix ruled in favor of the company.
But on Thursday the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who filed the suit on behalf of Miles, announced the decision was reversed in a July 31 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court sent the case back to a lower court to be retried.
According to the EEOC, 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."
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 EEOC said. "The EEOC is gratified by the decision," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney at the EEOC's Phoenix District office. "We look forward to presenting the details of Ms. Miles' treatment at trial."
Boeing spokesman Hal Klopper said the company had no comment on the appeals court decision. "Boeing is aware of the (EEOC) press release and we'll review it, but we have no comment at this time," Klopper said.
The EEOC said the harassment had been designed to make Miles' job more difficult. The suit alleges incidents of co-workers breaking, hiding or changing the adjustments on her tools or filling her tool cart with trash, the suit said.
The commission also said co-workers would shake a helicopter while she was working on it, jeopardizing her safety.
Miles reported the conduct to the Boeing human resources department, but the company did nothing to address it, the EEOC said. The suit also said Boeing retaliated against Miles for complaining, and human resources officials told her the company would do nothing more with her complaints because she had chosen to go to the EEOC.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, an injunction prohibiting future harassment and retaliation, and training and other programs to prevent further harassment.
Meanwhile, another case filed by the EEOC on behalf of two female former engineers at Boeing's Mesa plant is being considered by the court of appeals. A district court in Phoenix ruled the case had no legal merit.