Lawsuit claims Boeing SC supervisors lied about bird strike to plane, then fired flight line worker
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A new lawsuit filed in Charleston County Tuesday claims that a former flight line worker at the Boeing plant in North Charleston was fired after supervisors lied about a bird strike during a test flight.
Richard Mester filed the suit against the Boeing Company, which also names 787 program Vice President of Operations Dave Carbon.
The lawsuit comes less than a month after Mester came forward as a whistleblower in a New York Times article and later in an interview with CBS News about issues at the plant in North Charleston concerning parts left inside planes.
Mester was fired from his position at the plant in 2018, but the lawsuit brings to light new details about how Mester claims he lost his job.
He was a Flight Readiness technician at the plantand says in the suit he was a “visible” supporter of the flight line workers unionizing.
In the lawsuit, Mester claims he was put on paid leave on Nov. 5, 2018 pending an investigation into a bird strike involving a 787 plane that was in test flight and was going to be delivered to United Airlines.
Mester claims in the suit that he was involved in inspecting the plane after the second test flight, watched both engines shut down, and saw no evidence of a bird strike on the exterior of the plane.
According to the lawsuit, the Federal Aviation Administration found that a bird strike never happened and that the only employees disciplined for the alleged bird strike were union supporters.
“The claims that there was no bird strike are simply not credible,” Boeing’s response to the lawsuit stated in part. “In fact, one of the individuals, who has self-identified his affiliation with the same union touted here, witnessed and confirmed the clear evidence of a bird strike on the engine’s external casing.”
Following the investigation, Mester claims he was fired on Nov. 29, 2018 and an appeal was denied on Dec. 6. The lawsuit also doubles down on Mester’s previous public claims concerning tools that were left in airplanes which were reported to management, but no action was ever taken.
Mester’s lawsuit is the second filed by a former employee at the Boeing plant in North Charleston in recent months. Former Quality Assurance Manager Liam Wallis also filed a suit saying he was wrongfully terminated for reporting issues on the production line.
Mester is also claiming he was wrongfully terminated and is seeking actual and punitive damages. His lawsuit is the latest among at least eight other federal complaints brought against Boeing following the 737-MAX plane crashes.
Boeing’s full statement can be found below:
“Boeing’s long-standing policy is to not comment on employment or termination decisions out of respect for the privacy of the individuals. However, in light of organized attempts to sensationalize and misrepresent these issues, Boeing states unequivocally that there has been no retaliation against any individual based on that individual’s feelings about a union or their alleged complaints about quality or safety. Boeing works hard to treat its employees with dignity and respect and only terminates teammates based on well publicized, long standing, and objectively obvious safety, compliance and conduct policies. This matter was no different. In fact, three teammates were terminated for certifying a required post flight inspection without noting readily apparent evidence of a bird strike. The claims that there was no bird strike are simply not credible. In fact, one of the individuals, who has self-identified his affiliation with the same union touted here, witnessed and confirmed the clear evidence of a bird strike on the engine's external casing.
The safety and quality of our teammates and airplanes is our highest priority and it applies to everyone, every day. Termination decisions are never made lightly, and our company maintains a robust process to insure such decisions are fully evaluated and that such actions are consistent.”
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