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Boeing, EEOC Reach Agreement on Pilot Age-Discrimination Case

April 18, 1990

SEATTLE (AP) _ The Boeing Co. and the federal government have announced an agreement to resolve a 1984 age-discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of company pilots removed from flight duty after age 60.

The consent decree announced Tuesday calls for raising the age limit to 63 and annual testing of older pilots’ physical and mental condition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Boeing said in statements issued in Seattle and Washington.

The agreement also provides $4.4 million to be distributed among 29 pilots covered by the case.

″With this agreement, EEOC is breaking new ground in dealing with age discrimination, specifically age ceilings for pilots,″ said EEOC chairman Evan J. Kemp Jr. ″The agreement calls for a totally new testing procedure that may provide us with better tools to fight employment discrimination based on age.″

Seattle-based Boeing is satisfied with the proposed pact, which is subject to approval by a U.S. District Court in Seattle, said company spokesman Paul Binder.

Under the five-year consent decree, Boeing would conduct the tests in coordination with the EEOC until 1995, when the company will decide whether the results warrant permanently lifting the age-60 ceiling.

If Boeing decides to reinstate the limit, the EEOC reserves the right to sue, the agency said.

The tests will include enhanced medical and performance examinations as well as standard and experimental neurophysical examinations used by the Federal Aviation Administration, the EEOC said.

All company pilots will take the tests at first, the agency said, then they will be given annually to determine flight fitness of pilots aged 57 to 63.

EEOC medical counsel Charles A. Shanor said he is confident the tests will show modern testing and evaluations ″are a far more accurate means of determining pilot competency and safety than the use of chronological age.″

In 1986, a U.S. District Court in Seattle decided the EEOC case in Boeing’s favor, saying the age-60 limitation was justified under an occupational qualification exception to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. That exemption is based on the FAA rule that commercial pilots must be removed from flight status at age 60.

But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 1988 that the policy’s validity for non-commercial pilots should be decided by a jury.

If approved, the consent decree will resolve the case, which had been set for trial this week. A fairness hearing on the decree is scheduled May 11 in Seattle. The agreement would go into effect 30 days after court approval.

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