Come Fly with Me: Third Circuit Rules that Boeing Did Not Wrongfully Terminate a Former Employee

boeingThomas Vaughan Jr. worked at Boeing’s Ridley Park plant for 18 years, most recently as a composite fabricator. But in 2013, he began having issues. That year, he was briefly terminated following an altercation with a supervisor. His termination was revoked, however, after the Union negotiated a settlement, allowing him to return to work in October 2013, under a “Last Chance” Agreement.

But Vaughan continued to have problems, even though he was in a new role. Upon returning to work, Vaughan required two certifications to begin to work at his new position. Before he got certification, he was assigned to a temporary sweeping position. Vaughan was disgruntled that the training was not happening fast enough, and that those responsible for the training were acting “dismissively” toward him. Nevertheless, he eventually got the certifications and began his job attaching fuel bags.

Boeing continued to see performance issues with Vaughan. First he left foreign object debris (FOD) on an aircraft during his break. FOD includes anything that is foreign to an aircraft—from tools to stray scraps. Because of the damage this could do to an aircraft, Boeing requires that all FOD be removed. The next issue occurred when Vaughan’s new supervisor noticed that he had left his tools out on a cart overnight, rather than store them in his locker. Following this incident, Vaughan’s manager found that Vaughan had left paper backing on an aircraft. Two days after that, one of Vaughan’s coworkers found that he had used a sander without putting his employee marker (called a “chit”) in the space to indicate that he had it.

Following this series of incidents, Vaughan was put on a three-day suspension from his position. Upon his return in January 2014, Vaughan continued to have issues—from once again failing to use his “chit,” to taking unauthorized overtime. Boeing, at the recommendation of Vaughan’s manager, made the decision to terminate Vaughan permanently, citing in the termination memo the most recent incidents involving the “chit” and the overtime.

After returning to Boeing the first time, Vaughan felt that he was not being given the chance to succeed. Boeing, for its part, believed that it had given Vaughan multiple chances and opportunities for training to try to keep him on.

The case seems fairly open and shut: employee breaks company policy on multiple occasions and is fired following several warnings. The problem with this case comes down to race. Thomas Vaughan was the only African American worker on his team. While he did not deny that he had committed these infractions, he also claimed that other white workers made equally significant mistakes, but were not terminated.

Boeing denies that they treated Vaughan any differently than his white coworkers. And as of May 22, 2018, the Third Circuit Court agrees. A three-judge panel ruled that Boeing had sufficient cause for firing Mr. Vaughan and their action was not racially motivated. The Third Circuit’s ruling confirmed a decision by the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granting summary judgment to Boeing.

Choosing to fire an employee is never an easy decision. It is an emotional situation for both parties. But sometimes it needs to be done. Boeing made sure to document the reasons for Vaughan’s termination, as well as work with him to avoid a termination at an earlier date. These are important factors to keep in mind if you are considering terminating an employee.

Employment Law Alliance Releases Results of #MeToo Survey

#metooThe Employment Law Alliance recently conducted a survey gaging the effect of the #MeToo Movement and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. As part of the Employment Law Alliance, Young Conaway was one of 382 firms from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico who all helped to contribute information regarding these topics. Their survey yielded the following results: Continue reading

Mitigating the Risks of Hiring an Employee with a Delaware Non-Compete

This article was originally published on the “Delaware Non-Compete Law Blog


The use of employee covenants not to compete – once restricted to salespeople and high-level management – has continued to expand into the ranks of ordinary employees. A recent survey suggests that as many as one in five employees have some form of agreement placing restrictions on their post-employment activities. Continue reading

#tbt: Quit Oversharing

On Thursdays we will be sharing some of our favorite articles here. Whether it’s a topic that we still think is relevant or just one that we especially liked, we hope these throwbacks will provide an insightful look at Employment Law. Here is a post called “Quit Oversharing” originally published in 2014.

Supervisors and their direct reports are not equals.  If you are a supervisor, I advise that you keep this golden rule in mind.  When you are required to communicate a decision to your subordinate, understand that communicating does not mean “explaining.”  Employees do not want to hear the full story behind the decision. Continue reading

2018 Annual Employment Law Seminar

Registration is now open for Young Conaway’s 2018 Annual Labor and Employment Law Seminar. The event will take place on April 12 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. This year our speakers will be discussing the #metoo Movement, marijuana and opioids in the workplace, and other important topics related to Employment Law.

Click here to find out more about this day-long program and how to register.

We hope to see you there!

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Is It Time to Rethink Your Zero Tolerance Drug Policy?

By William W. Bowser


In my practice, drug and alcohol issues came to the forefront in the 90’s. There was a lot of publicity then about transit workers and big rig drivers causing accidents when they were high.

The Department of Transportation (“DOT”) responded by adopting regulations 5161819684_6b310a493b_zrequiring CDL drivers to be tested for drugs under various scenarios. These scenarios included pre-employment, post-accident, and at random. Every employer with at least one CDL driver had to adopt a pretty comprehensive drug and alcohol policy.  I drafted a lot of them.

Once the CDL drivers were covered, employers started expanding the scope of these policies to cover other employees. The stated purpose was to have an efficient and productive workplace and to protect the public. Continue reading

Right-to-work: Right or Wrong?

Recently there has been a lot of talk in Delaware regarding right-to-work laws.

When a private-sector company is organized, the union will try to negotiate a requirement that all employees either join the union and pay union dues or pay a so-called agency fee for the services provided by the union like negotiations and grievance processing. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) authorizes individual states to outlaw this practice.  Any state who passes such a law is called a “right-to-work state.”

Delaware, like 21 other states, is not a right-to-work state. Delaware Governor Carney wants Delaware to stay that way. Continue reading