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Hughes Aircraft Hit With $89 Million Judgment in Racism Suit

October 27, 1994

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Hughes Aircraft Co. is fighting an $89.5 million jury award in a job discrimination lawsuit brought by a black engineer and his white supervisor.

The electronics giant said Wednesday that the state court verdict was ″irrational, irresponsible and outrageous.″ Hughes said it would ask Superior Court Judge Malcolm H. Mackey to set the verdict aside and would appeal if necessary.

The jury awarded $80 million in punitive damages Monday. Half went to Jeffrey Lane, who said his career working with space shuttle radar stalled when he complained about racial bias in pay and promotions.

The other half went to his supervisor, David Villalpando, who said the company retaliated against him for backing Lane. Villalpando says he was forced out of his job; Lane says he quit to take a better paying job.

Earlier this month, the jury awarded $6.1 million to Lane and $3.4 million to Villalpando for emotional distress and lost wages and benefits.

One of Lane’s lawyers, Ian Herzog, said records presented at trial showed that in Lane’s group of 500 workers, there were no blacks in middle or upper management.

Hughes, an aerospace and electronics subsidiary of General Motors Corp., had a $482 million after-tax profit last year. It said in court documents that Lane ″had not shown the leadership or put forth the extra effort to merit being promoted.″

Hughes also said other workers had more experience in commercial work, which was crucial for the company as defense spending declined.

Lane said Hughes conducted a sham investigation of his claim of racism - part of what he contended is a pattern of stonewalling and retaliation in such cases.

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