January 21, 2020

Former BIW worker tells judge of harassment

A Bath woman who is suing Bath Iron Works for $500,000 on the grounds of sexual harassment and discrimination described Friday how she was the subject of numerous sexual rumors and graffiti until she left the company in 1986.

Appearing in a civil trial in U.S. District Court in Bangor, Jane Thayer Smith, a former production worker and shop steward, told a federal magistrate how one particular rumor about her allegedly giving sexual favors to a black sailor was “very rampant” among her co-workers throughout the shipyard.

“Day after day, week after week, month after month, this was continually reported back to me,” testified Smith.

Accompanied by a fellow steward, Smith said she reported the rumor to her general foreman, who told her such rumors should be expected in a shipyard.

The plaintiff also listed several incidents in which she believed she was harassed, including one in which a foreman allegedly pushed her up against a locker in the shipyard lunchroom. No action was taken in the matter, she said.

Smith, who was a legislative candidate in 1982, also identified a facsimile of one of her political fliers, distributed at BIW, that was defaced with an obscene comment. In addition, she presented a pin-up cartoon of herself that was found in a ship at the yard.

“I felt I was a deer hunted down by a pack of wolves,” said Smith, echoing a comment made earlier in the trial by her psychotherapist. She said she took two leaves of absence because of the stress she felt before finally resigning her job.

The non-jury civil trial, which was being heard by U.S. Magistrate Edward H. Keith, concluded Friday. Keith is expected to make a decision in the matter in a few weeks.

After plaintiff’s attorney Jeffrey Sullivan of Lewiston rested his case, BIW’s attorney, Arlyne Weeks of Bath, made a motion for a judgment on the grounds there was insufficient evidence to prove sexual harassment or discrimination. Keith reserved a decision on the motion.

Weeks presented the testimony of two BIW officials in her defense case. Edward Galvin, manager of personnel administration, outlined BIW’s policies prohibiting sexual discrimination and harassment. He also described the company’s continuing difficulty in controlling graffiti, occurring most often in men’s rooms, which now is routinely painted out by workers.

“The problem of graffiti never seems to go away,” he said.

Arnold L. Clay, BIW senior labor relations administrator, also was questioned about BIW’s discipline practice for violators of the company’s sexual harassment policy. He said it included discharging employees for serious offenses.

Under questioning by Weeks, Clay said he recalled hearing Smith make an explicit comment about having to give sexual favors to get a job at BIW before she was hired. Earlier in the trial, another BIW supervisor also testified to Smith’s making the comment at another time before she was hired.

Clay said that as a result, he recommended that Smith not be hired, but “the company was directed to hire her by senior management.” He said he had “no idea” why her hiring was ordered.

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