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 executives. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com; or firstname.lastname@example.org; and on the Web at http://www.nydclaw.com. 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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