Our union is a powerful association of workers fighting to protect each other from bad working conditions and to ensure that our careers stay intact. We often use the power of the contract to confront abuses from management, but sometimes those violations are so egregious that we take on legal measures outside of contract enforcement.
That was the case with Jamie Navitz, a former Medium Equipment Operator with Marion County who faced sexual harassment on the job from her manager. Navitz alleged that her former manager Don Newell said that her “great asset” was her “sexuality” and began speaking out in 2018 about discrimination she had faced. Navitz said that she was overlooked for promotions she was qualified for and instead received demeaning gender-related comments, which violated the non-discrimination policy we fought to have at the county.
We began organizing around this issue, taking it to local political figures and challenging management’s explanation of the events. We pulled together support from around Marion County, not just county employees but union members from all walks of life. We brought supporters out to County Commissioner meetings to confront the issue, received support from Oregon Representative Paul Evans, and worked to figure out what kind of outside legal counsel was necessary. This received a great deal of press attention, all of which helped to move the hand of the county to take action.
An investigation found that not only was Navitz discriminated against, but management had a pattern of gender-related discrimination. In 2018 Navitz filed a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), which is often a step on discrimination cases when handled by a Steward. They found that Navitz was discriminated against and issued a “right to sue.”
After fighting for over two years, Navitz has now won her case! She won a settlement of over $300,000, which includes both her attorney costs and over a quarter-million dollars in damages. She still has another complaint against the county over an indefinite suspension she was placed on and a lack of proper internal Human Resources investigation, but that is ongoing, as are several other complaints from other workers.
Sexual harassment and discrimination is a workplace issue, and one our union fights hard to confront. We will not be silent when workers face gender-related issues on the job, and we will bring together union members in an effort to fight on this issue as a group.