Boeing sued for negligence over 2022 murder of employee

Jan 26, 2024, 12:48 AM | Updated: 4:29 am

Photo: The Boeing Co. logo is displayed outside of company offices....

The Boeing Co. logo is displayed outside of company offices. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon, Getty Images)

(Photo: Patrick T. Fallon, Getty Images)

While Boeing is facing harsh criticism for not properly assembling its jets, the company is also being sued for not taking care of the safety of its employees.

Boeing is currently facing a federal complaint that holds the company responsible for not adequately addressing the concerns raised by a worker, ultimately resulting in a tragic murder-suicide in 2022. (The lawsuit document can be viewed here.)

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Rachel Washington, the executor of Isaiah Washington’s estate, initiated the legal action in Washington’s King County Superior Court in December. Boeing has recently transferred the case to federal court.

The plaintiff alleged that Isaiah Washington, a former Boeing employee, was entangled in a complex personal situation involving two other colleagues at the Renton assembly plant. According to the original lawsuit documents filed in King County Superior Court, Washington was romantically and sexually involved with Rachel Pettit, his supervisor, while another colleague, Ralph O’Connor, also was in the midst of a four-year romantic relationship with Pettit.

O’Connor found out about Pettit’s relationship with Washington in early September 2021. The suit claimed that O’Connor was very possessive of Pettit and displayed behavior and anger issues throughout their relationship.

O’Connor had a history of threats to other Boeing employees and had been previously suspended by Boeing. According to O’Connor’s wife, Boeing was aware of a dispute between O’Connor and Washington “for a while” and the company did nothing about it.

The situation reached a tragic climax on Nov. 21, 2022 when O’Connor stalked Washington, knowing when his work schedule as Washington and Pettit worked the same shift. O’Connor waited for Washington to park his car and walk through the Renton Landing to the Boeing plant. O’Connor shot and killed Washington on the street, then killed himself. The Renton Police Department investigated the case.

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“Boeing, including supervisors on text messages, had knowledge of O’Conner’s unfitness to be an employee and failed to exercise reasonable care to discover his unfitness before continuing to retain O’Connor,” the lawsuit alleged.

The lawsuit accused Boeing of negligence because the company knowingly allowed a supervisor, Pettit, to continue to have a sexual relationship with Washington, her subordinate. A federal judge gave Boeing until Jan. 23 to respond to the complaint.

Matt Markovich often covers the state legislature and public policy for KIRO Newsradio. You can read more of Matt’s stories here. Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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