Union alleges Spirit used health info in layoffs

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 26, 2014 at 4:54 pm •  Published: March 26, 2014
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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The union representing engineers at Spirit AeroSystems Inc. accused the aerospace company Wednesday of terminating hundreds of workers last year because they were too old and a burden on health insurance costs, claims that the company vehemently denies.

The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace made the allegations in discrimination complaints that 10 ex-employees filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming they were laid off after Spirit became a self-insured company.

The former workers also want the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate whether the Wichita aerospace company unlawfully obtained their confidential medical information.

Spirit AeroSystems said in an emailed statement that the union's allegations are filled with distortions and misstatements, and that personal health information is not used to make layoff decisions.

Last July, Spirit laid off 360 salaried and managerial employees, including 221 SPEEA-represented engineers, technical workers and other professionals. Three weeks before the terminations, the company changed its medical coverage from an underwritten form of medical insurance to a self-funded insurance program. The union contends that change means every dollar not paid out in medical claims stays in the company's bank account.

Among those who lost their jobs was Gail Haug, who went to work for Boeing in July 1974 and what became Spirit AeroSystems after Boeing sold its Wichita operations. He contends he had gotten high job performance ratings until he was reprimanded for speaking up during a crew meeting.