Ex-Spirit Aero staff claim their high health costs led to layoffs

Wed Mar 26, 2014 1:08pm EDT
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By Alwyn Scott

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - Former employees of Spirit Aerosystems Holdings Inc, a major supplier to plane makers Boeing and Airbus, filed charges with federal agencies on Wednesday alleging that Spirit illegally used health care information to target those who were costing the company most for layoffs.

Ten former employees claim they were selected when the company cut 360 positions last summer because they or covered family members had costly disabilities or medical conditions.

Spirit's health care administrators shared information with high-level managers "so that Spirit - in its role as employer - could identify the employees associated with the most expensive medical claims and target them for termination," according to one of the charges filed on Wednesday and reviewed by Reuters.

The charges, filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Civil Rights, request class status and also allege age discrimination, disability discrimination and violations of privacy rights, said Diane King, a lawyer with King and Greisen, a Denver law firm that assisted the employees.

Ken Evans, a spokesman for Spirit, said the allegations "are filled with distortions and misstatements. Personal health information is certainly not used to make layoff decisions."

All of the charges relate to the July 2013 layoffs, when Spirit cut the positions at its facilities in Wichita, Kansas, including 221 members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), a Seattle-based union that also represents workers at Boeing.

Evans said SPEEA had made unfounded allegations before, including several charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board last year related to the job cuts that were either withdrawn or dismissed by the board.

"While terminations are always difficult, all such decisions are based on job-related, non-discriminatory criteria, and Spirit has made every effort to carry them out with respect for our employees," Evans said in a statement.   Continued...