"The investigation began in January following complaints to the Alaska State Employees Association from the local DOT employees. The union charged that the Fairbanks headquarters was run like a club in which white, [Roman] Catholic males were favored for promotions and hirings."
From ............. DAILY NEWS MINER
JUNE 1, 1996
FRONT PAGE AND A-10
DOT BOSSES DISCIPLINED AFTER PROBE
By LIN GALE Staff Writer
A top manager at the Department of Transportation's headquarters in Fairbanks has been forced to resign, another suspended, and others reprimanded for sexual harassment and discrimination against women.
A memo, issued Friday by DOT Commissioner Joseph L. Perkins, did not identify those disciplined or the specific complaints against them. DOT Deputy Commissioner Kurt Parkan said he could not release that information because it involves confidential personnel matters.
"That isn't what we're trying to focus on, a specific person or incident, we're more interested in bringing the workplace into some part of harmony," Parkan said.
The three-month investigation, conducted by DOT employees from Anchorage and Juneau and overseen by Fairbanks attorney Bob Groseclose, involved interviews with 70 former and current employees. Many reported being sexually harassed, unfairly passed over for promotions, and discriminated against in the hiring process, the memo said.
"Some incidents appeared somewhat minor when viewed individually. However, they become part of a much different picture when examined collectively," Perkins wrote. "They presented a picture in which some employees believe the work environment is not healthy and the merit system is not always a reality."
The memo, distributed to employees at DOT's Fairbanks headquarters, did not indicate wrongdoing by managers but rather focused on employees' perceptions of how managers behaved. The memo said the probe found:
- The appearance of favoritism in employment by senior staff;
- The perception that gender and appearance play a role in employment decisions;
- The failure of some staff to recognize that certain remarks and conduct may create a hostile work environment for women.
"It's a matter of bringing people to the '90s," Parkan said Friday. "What may have been considered acceptable behavior in the '60s and '70s is clearly not acceptable now."
In an effort to improve the situation, an employee will be put in the Fairbanks office for at least six months to monitor hirings and promotions and to handle sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.
In addition, Northern Regional Director Tony Johansen will develop a plan to handle problems that came to light during the investigation, the memo said.
Johansen also declined to identify which of his employees had been disciplined.
"Where we are right now is at the conclusion of a very difficult time for our department," he said. "What I would like to do at this time is to put that behind us and go on with what the mission of our department is."
The investigation began in January following complaints to the Alaska State Employees Association from the local DOT employees. The union charged that the Fairbanks headquarters was run like a club in which white, Catholic males were favored for promotions and hirings.
The union said then that 52 of 58 management-level positions in the DOT Northern Region were held by males, most of them white.
In a separate action, an arbitrator in January found that department managers discriminated against a female Chinese-American engineer when she was passed up for a promotion in favor of a less experienced, white male employee.
At that time, the arbitrator concluded that female employees at the Fairbanks headquarters worked in a hostile environment where "insensitive top management does not fully regard female engineers as equals, and where the same management only reluctantly complies with the state's policies on sexual harassment."
According to the arbitrator's report, complaints against the management included:
- A high-ranking director kept a calendar of nude women on his wall, made sexually offensive remarks to a female employee and asked her to sit on his lap, and ordered the supervisor of a female engineer to revise his evaluation of her because it was too "glowing."
- A department head forced kisses on at least two female employees.
- A supervisor put his arm around a female employee and rested his hand on her buttocks, and acted in an offensive way during interviews.
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