Appeals Court Reverses Female Longshoreman's Sexual Harassment Award

November 25, 2003 ( - A sexual harassment award against Pacific Maritime Association has been reversed by a federal appeals court.

The US 9 th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Teresa White was not an employee of Pacific Maritime when she was harassed by male co-workers on the Portland, Oregon waterfront. After the incident, White quit her job in 1998, according to The Oregonian report.

A Portland jury originally awarded White $1.2 million against the Pacific Maritime, the labor negotiator for all West Coast ports, but a judge later reduced the award to $564,000. In reversing the award, the appeals panel ruled that the association was not an “indirect” or joint employer of White. Although the association cuts dockworker paychecks, provides worker training and operates a dispatch hall jointly with the union, it does not supervise longshoremen and has no power to hire, fire or discipline them, the panel ruled.

The three-justice panel cited another 9th Circuit opinion earlier this year in a race discrimination case against the association in Seattle and Tacoma in its ruling. “. . .the discriminatory conduct in the instant case took place not at facilities controlled by PMA but rather at facilities controlled by MTC, which actually employed and supervised Jones and the male co-workers who harassed her,” wrote Circuit Judge RuggeroAldisert .

White’s attorney called the ruling “unbelievable.” No word was given if White would appeal the decision.

Case History

In 1998, White, one of the first female members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union in Portland, alleged male co-workers repeatedly left pornographic material in the open and commented on her physical appearance while she worked as a “steady sweeper,” or custodian, in a gear locker at Terminal 6. After the allegations were made, White then accused one dockworker of trying to run her off the road in his car and threatening her life.

These complaints triggered a federal investigation. In 1999, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit accusing the Pacific Maritime, the union and Marine Terminals Corporation, which hired her, of violating federal sex discrimination laws. The actions forced Pacific Maritime to establish sexual-harassment policies and training for rank-and-file dockworkers inPortland.