WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Twenty-four workers laid off by Spirit AeroSystem sued the aircraft parts maker on Monday, alleging the Wichita company targeted during workforce reductions in 2013 older workers covered by its insurance who had costly medical conditions or had family members with costly health problems.
The former employees, members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, filed the federal class-action lawsuit on behalf of themselves and an estimated 160 other employees age 40 or older who lost their jobs during several waves of layoffs in 2013.
The 92-page complaint in U.S. District Court in Wichita challenges the employment discharges and alleges blacklisting of those workers from new jobs.
Spirit AeroSystems said in an emailed statement that it does not discriminate in its employment practices, including hiring and firing decisions.
"Reductions in force are never easy, however all decisions are based on job-related, non-discriminatory criteria," the company said. "We are confident the evidence in this case will show Spirit is compliant with the law in its employment practices."
Donnetta Raymond worked 25 years at the Wichita manufacturing plant losing her job.
"Spirit's decision to fire its older workers after years of dedicated service was shocking," Raymond said in a news release. "Spirit ushered us out of there like we had done something wrong when we had not. Our worlds were turned upside down because we had worked there for so long."
The lawsuit contends the company carried out several waves of terminations that culminated in July 2013 with the firings of more than 300 mostly older workers.
Weeks after the layoffs, Spirit held a job fair to recruit new employees and hired mostly younger workers.
"Spirit blackballed the older workers who were fired in July 2013 while hiring for hundreds of positions over the next few years," the workers' attorney, Diane King, said in a news release.
The lawsuit contends that just three weeks before the July 2013 terminations, Spirit changed its medical coverage to a self-funded insurance program to make the company solely responsible for employee medical costs.