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Boeing pays $11.5M to employees owed wages for work travel

In this Jan. 25, 2020, file photo a Boeing 777X airplane takes off on its first flight with the Olympic Mountains in the background at Paine Field in Everett, Wash.
Ted S. Warren
/
AP
In this Jan. 25, 2020, file photo a Boeing 777X airplane takes off on its first flight with the Olympic Mountains in the background at Paine Field in Everett, Wash.

Boeing has paid $11.5 million in unpaid wages to nearly 500 employees after an investigation by Washington Labor & Industries into the company’s travel pay practices. It’s the largest amount of back pay returned to workers in the state agency’s history.

The investigation found Boeing did not pay or account for all overtime and paid sick leave during travel to out-of-town worksites. Under state law — unlike federal law — all travel time related to work is considered work time.

Labor & Industries, which announced the results of its investigation on Thursday, said state officials began looking into Boeing’s travel pay practices following four November 2022 complaints from Boeing workers performing maintenance overseas.

“Work travel is still work—and we want to ensure Washington businesses understand what they owe to their workers who are on the road,” said director Joel Sacks.

Sacks said the company cooperated with Labor & Industries and agreed to pay workers what they were owed. Boeing paid the employees in March 2024. Individual payments ranged from a few hundred dollars to more than $90,000. The amount of backpay includes wages and overtime for travel between October 2019 and August 2023.

The company signed a compliance agreementwith Labor & Industries on May 24. The agreement states that Boeing began revising its pay practices after a 2021 Washington Court of Appeals case, Port of Tacoma v. Sacks, which affirmed Washington’s law on paying for work travel.

The previous largest backpay case investigated by Labor & Industries was in August 2017, when Hertz and Thrifty car rental companies paid $2 million to 157 workers.

In a statement to the Standard, a Boeing spokesperson said the company has worked to align its pay practices to reflect state law.

“We also went a step further and provided back pay for eligible employees in 2021 and more recently provided back pay earlier this year for another group of employees that did not originally record all of their travel time,” the statement said. “We are pleased the state has agreed to close an audit into Boeing pay practices.”

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence.

Grace Deng is a reporter at the Washington State Standard. Born and raised in Snohomish County, Grace graduated from Northwestern University in June 2023.