this news makes me simply EFFING ill! I hate them all but this is utter over the FUCKING top!
By Tracy Vedder Oct 10, 2014
SEATTLE – Captain Katharine Sweeney wanted to be the first female vessel pilot in Puget Sound. Instead she’s now won a $3.6 million gender discrimination case, and taxpayers are on the hook for the actions of an obscure state commission.
Sweeney spent years working up the ranks of the maritime industry. She ultimately captained some of the largest and newest container vessels for Matson Shipping, sailing around the world. She helped rescue Japanese fishermen during a raging storm. She kept her crew safe off-loading cargo in Kuwait while SCUD missiles flew overhead during the first Gulf War.
But her final career goal was right here in Puget Sound.
“It was her dream to be a Puget Sound Pilot,” said attorney Deborah Senn.
Licensed vessel pilots are the only ones allowed to guide commercial ships in and out of Puget Sound. They are coveted positions – only 55 of them all told – and the jobs are worth about $400,000 a year.
In the 100-plus years of the Puget Sound Pilots association, there has never been a female pilot. Sweeney was the first and only woman ever even accepted into the training program run by a Training Evaluation Committee that is all-male.
Senn, along with lead attorney David Breskin - represented Sweeney.
Senn said in all the years Sweeney worked her way up the ranks, she never complained, never asked for special favors, and the same was true when she started training to be a Puget Sound Pilot.
“Captain Sweeney would make a mistake and get marked down for it,” Senn said. “Another pilot trainee would make the same mistake and not get marked down for it.”
Despite that, Senn said Sweeney performed as well as her male counterparts who got licenses. She said in some cases pilots trained and graded their own family members, who all got licenses.
But the State Board of Pilotage Commissioners voted against giving Sweeney a license. They decided, “she would not be a safe pilot,” according to Board Chairman Captain Harry Dudley. Dudley said each of the Commissioners had their own requirements in voting for or against licensing a trainee but, in general, he said Sweeney wasn’t consistent.
Dudley said the Board is disappointed the jury ruled against it and he doesn’t believe their process needs to change.
“We believe the system is set up so that no one group of people could discriminate against another in this training program,” he said.
Senn said the idea of nepotism and the “good old boy network” is well recognized in the Puget Sound pilotage community and, “it’s really, really time to change it.”
The Board of Pilotage Commissioners has not yet decided if they will appeal the jury’s verdict. All the Commission members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate.