Keyport (The Bremerton Sun 10-28-1992)
Navy concedes sex bias in woman's case
Three years after filing a sex discrimination complaint against the Keyport naval base, a Poulsbo woman has won a bittersweet victory.
By Lloyd Pritchett Sun Staff
A Navy investigation has found that an award-winning employee of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, at Keyport was subjected to sex discrimination so severe over a two-year period it contributed to her leaving on a disability retirement.
The employee, Tiny M. York of Poulsbo, was insulted, harassed, cursed and called derogatory names by her immediate supervisor, Coy Habich, from June 1987 to mid 1989, the Navy probe found.
Then after she filed a sex harassment complaint, the Keyport base's management retaliated against her by forcing her to file paperwork on her case through the same supervisor who was harassing her, said the investigation.
The Navy findings were issued last week by Dorothy M. Meletzke, deputy assistant Navy secretary for equal employment opportunity, more than three years after York's initial complaint was filed.
"This office concludes that the complainant was discriminated against based on her sex and in reprisal for (equal employment opportunity) activity," the Navy report says.
The Name's findings also show that Habich avoided supervisory and sexual harassment training for nine years, and that York and other employees had to clean up after Habich, who spit up mucus all over the shop's office and trucks.
But it was not clear whether the investigation will result in any disciplinary actions at Keyport. Habich died in May 1991, and other supervisors who retaliated against York apparently have left the area.
"We're looking at the situation to see if any further action is needed," said Debbie Pritchard of Keyport's news office. "It's hard to punish someone for something that happened years ago."
She said the base has improved its equal employment procedures since then.
York herself is entitled to only a few weeks of back pay as a result of the decision. Her disability retirement amounts to two-thirds of her regular pay, and cost-of-living increases are only half what she would have received on the job.
Nevertheless, she sees the Navy findings as a partial moral victory. "All I ever wanted was for somebody to admit they made a mistake," she said. "There's no healing without justice."
Don Hobson, a freelance equal employment specialist who helped York with her case, said he believes the Navy ruled in her favor due to the heightened visibility of sexual harassment problems since the Tailhook sex abuse scandal.
York started to work at Keyport in 1983 as a material expeditor. She received several awards, including a special service award for speeding up supply deliveries.
But after she reported incidents of expensive gear being stolen or thrown away by co-workers, she was transferred to the rigger shop, traditionally an all-male enclave, where she was the only female employee.
Problems started immediately. Habich refused to call York by her given instead using a crude name, instead using sexist nickname for her. He cursed and yelled at her constantly and even destroyed a workers compensation claim she filed for an on-the-job injury.
Meanwhile, Habich continued to receive job performance ratings of "highly satisfactory" and "highly successful."
During the same time frame, York also was undergoing stresses off the job. In harp 1988 she was the first to discover the corpse of a friend who was murdered.
Finally, in July 1989, York filed a sexual harassment complaint against Habich. But after a short investigation by Keyport's equal employment office, the base rejected the complaint, saying it was "untimely".
A non-disciplinary letter of caution was issued to Habich, York was returned to the shop and ordered to file all further discrimination paperwork through Habich She filed a second complaint, which was rejected by the base commanding officer.
Eventually the hostile working environment, coupled with off-the job problems, caused York to suffer a stress reaction.
She was kicked off the base permanently and her claim for a disability retirement was OK'd. In the meantime, Habich retired.
Eventually, York appealed the decision to the Navy secretary's office, which investigated the case for nearly two years before ruling in her favor.
In the meantime, she still is trying to find out why she was kicked off the base. The Navy says it was because she made threats to individuals in the base equal employment office, but no one has ever offered proof that this actually happened.