CEO of GE Subsidiary Files $450 Million National Race Discrimination Class Action Against General Electric

May 18, 2005, 01:00 ET from Sanford, Wittels & Heisler, LLP

    BRIDGEPORT, Conn., May 18 /PRNewswire/ -- General Electric's (NYSE:   GE)
 slogan Imagination At Work might be better phrased Discrimination At Work,
 according to a class action complaint filed Tuesday in United States District
 Court in Connecticut by one of the company's top-ranking African-American
     Marc T. Thomas, president, chairman and CEO of GE Aviation Materials LP
 ("GEAM"), charges in the suit that the nation's fifth largest company
 discriminated against him and thousands of other African-American managers and
 professional level employees by subjecting them to racist pay and promotion
 policies and practices.
     Mr. Thomas, who led his GE subsidiary to record profits in 2004 and in the
 first quarter of 2005, alleges in the complaint that GE:
     -- fails to pay African-American managers and professionals on par with
        their white colleagues;
     -- fails to promote African-American managers and professionals to senior
        leadership positions; and
     -- retaliates against employees who protest GE's discriminatory practices.
     Mr. Thomas's attorney, David W. Sanford, of the Washington, D.C. office of
 Sanford, Wittels, & Heisler, LLP, said "Marc Thomas's life and career -- from
 Stanford University, Columbia Business School and West Point, to a 'Green
 Beret' commander leading Special Forces soldiers overseas, to serving as a
 White House adviser -- have served as models for excellence and leadership.
 Mr. Thomas's excellence has continued at GE, as he led the turnaround of an
 under-achieving company. Despite his proven record of success, GE has
 discriminated against Mr. Thomas. Unfortunately, there are thousands of other
 African-Americans at GE with similar stories."
     The Complaint describes how GE's internal statistics and reports show race
 discrimination against African-American managers and professionals in
 promotion, pay, and other practices. GE has seen an escalating departure of
 African-Americans and minorities in its ranks, and soaring minority attrition
 is a fact known to senior management.
     According to Mr. Thomas, "Racial discrimination can no longer be tolerated
 by this company's African-American managers and professionals. It is
 imperative that individuals be evaluated and rewarded based on objective
 criteria as opposed to race.  The time has come for GE to face and truly
 resolve the troubling issues that made this legal action necessary. I am
 taking this stand now because I feel compelled to do everything I can to
 ensure this discrimination comes to an end."
     In 2004, Mr. Thomas received one of GE's highest honors, The Lewis A.
 Latimer Award. The inscription on the award highlighted his exemplary
 leadership skills. Mr. Thomas has led a turnaround at GEAM with significant
 sales, profit increases, and cost reductions. Under Mr. Thomas's leadership,
 the company had the highest performance increases in 2004 among comparable GE
 companies, growing sales by more than 21 percent and netting an 89 percent
 increase in operating profits. Profit has continued to skyrocket by 162
 percent in the first quarter of 2005 compared to the same period last year.
     Steven L. Wittels of Sanford, Wittels, & Heisler's New York office, added,
 "Mr. Thomas led GEAM to record performance in 2004 and again in the first
 quarter of 2005. Mr. Thomas implemented a merit-based incentive system at GE
 Aviation Materials where employees were paid and rewarded based on their job
 performance. For his efforts, GE management retaliated by orchestrating a
 campaign designed to drive Mr. Thomas out of the company. Sadly, the
 mistreatment of an individual as distinguished as Mr. Thomas is emblematic of
 GE's continuing inability and unwillingness to prevent institutionalized
 racism at GE."
     Defendants in the case include GE, GE Transportation, GE Aviation
 Materials, GE CEO Jeffrey R. Immelt, and a group of corporate officers and
 senior operations and human resource leaders at GE including, David L.
 Calhoun, Daniel "Dan" C. Heintzelman, Charlene T. Begley, John "Jack" F. Ryan,
 Marc A. Chini, and William "Bill" J. Conaty, and members of the GE Management
 Development & Compensation Committee.
     Based in Irving, Texas, GE Aviation Materials is a joint venture
 specializing in the purchase and sale of turbine engines, airframes and
 refurbished spare parts manufactured by GE and other companies. GE Aviation
 Materials is a subsidiary of GE Transportation.
     The lawsuit seeks $450 million in compensatory, punitive and equitable
 damages, as well as injunctive relief to change GE pay and promotion policies
 and procedures. The class includes thousands of African-American managers and
 professional employees. Mr. Thomas also filed individual claims for
 retaliation, breach of contract, tortious conduct, and intentional infliction
 of emotional distress.
     The legal team for Mr. Thomas and the class includes David Sanford and
 Steven Wittels of Sanford, Wittels, & Heisler and Grant Morris of the Law
 Offices of Grant Morris, Washington, D.C. They can be reached by phone at
 202-942-2187 or 942-9124 in Washington; by phone at 914-319-9945 in New York;
 by e-mail at or; or; and on the Web at
     Sanford, Wittels & Heisler, LLP represents plaintiffs in state, federal
 and administrative employment law cases alleging harassment or discrimination
 based on race, gender, disability, pregnancy, religion, retaliation and unpaid
 overtime/wages. The attorneys at Sanford, Wittels & Heisler have reached
 multi-million dollar settlements in numerous cases nationwide.

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