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Public Employee Harassed

Verbal Abuse Followed By Physical Attacks

Woman Labeled "Insensitive" For Complaining

Racial politics a factor

I'm a 55 year old white female. I have worked for Pierce Transit Public Transportation in Tacoma, Washington for 20 years now. I'm a Safety & Training Instructor as was Mr. Z *, a black male. He was promoted from a bus driver to an instructor in March, 1989. By September of 1989, he began demonstrating signs of anger and hostility towards me and many women of all races. He was verbally abusive and made sexists remarks such as women should stay home, have babies and let men have our jobs. That filing is women's work and he shouldn't have to do these women things.

By the end of 1989, he was standing over us with clinched fists yelling at us. Mostly it was because we did not do his filing or something he didn't want to do. He put his finger on another female instructor's chest and backed her against the wall because he was angry about something. He pounded his fists on the table and yelled at us when we said something he didn't like. He sat at his desk lifting 40 lb. bumbbells just glaring at one or the other of us.

In September 1989, I reported his behavior to my employer, as did the other women. We were told that we did not understand his culture and we needed to be more sensitive to his cultural needs. In addition, we were told by our immediate supervisor that we will make this man successful no matter what it takes. I was personally told that it would not be a good career move to make any more complaints against this man.

The other women stopped complaining as much, and just took it. I, on the other hand, reported his behavior as harassment and physical intimidation every time it happened, which was almost a daily routine. As a result, my supervisor and his superiors required me to attend several Cultural Diversity classes. My employer did not at any time bring any of our complains or concerns to his attention or talk to him about his behavior. They chose to ignore the situation, and treated me as I was a "problem child" thereby condoning his behavior.

As time went by, his hostile behavor became violent. In 1992, he came behind me, and as a witness stated, he positioned himself like a football player blocking a play. He hit me in the back with his arm and shoulder knocking me into a row of filing cabinates. As I bounced off of the filing cabinets, he elbowed me in the ribs, causing me a permanent partial disability. Only because there was a witness did Pierce Transit demote him back to driving.

In 1993, he attempted to hit me again, but I saw him and got out of his way. He missed me by just inches. Pierce Transit stated that because no one saw it happend and because there was no contact, they would not pursue the issue. In January 1994, he nearly rammed my car with his, then followed me. I saw a chance to get away by pulling out in front of a semi-truck to get away from him. Again, my employer said that because there was no contact, they would not do anything.

I filed a suite of sexual/gender based harassment, negligent supervision and retaliation against Pierce Transit, and battery and assault and battery charges against Mr. Z. In 1995, Judge Waldo Stone dismissed my case on a Motion for Summary Judgment. He did not see any sexual harassment and felt Pierce Transit met it's responsibility by demoting this man.

On January 15, 1998 my case went before the Appellate judges. During the oral arguments, the judges could not understand the difference between sexual and gender harassment. It seems that if a woman has not been fondled or touched in a sexual manner, she hasn't been sexually harassed. I suspect that due to their lack of education regarding sexual/gender harassment they will dismiss my case again. I don't understand why they cannot look beyond the sexual part of my case and see the violance and retaliation that took place.

I believe that my case should not have been dismissed the first time. It should go before a jury so the facts can be made known. I live each day with a very painful physcial disability, not to mention the emotional, psychological trauma, while Pierce Transit and Mr. Z go on with their lives. All because of uninformed and disinterested judges.

Story submitted by:

* Because of the inability to independently verify the facts, we felt it would not be appropriate to use the name of the other person allegedly involved.

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