Ex-ferry dispatcher files sexual harassment suit

Posted: Sunday, October 02, 2005

A former Alaska Marine Highway System dispatcher alleges she was sexually harassed by co-workers and demoted to a lower-paying job in retaliation for complaining.

Demerara L. Reber filed a lawsuit demanding a jury trial in Juneau Superior Court last week, acting as her own attorney. The complaint seeks back pay, compensation for mental anguish and humiliation and punitive damages. She estimated the annual loss of income at approximately $15,000 and noted it would affect her retirement benefits.

John Manly, spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said Friday he was unaware of the allegations and could not comment.

Reber, writing of herself in the third person, charged that both the Transportation and Public Facilities and Administration departments misrepresented facts while responding to her complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which informed her in June she had the right to sue.

Reber went to work in the marine highway's dispatch section in November 2000. Beginning in June 2001, "Reber began to be subjected to inappropriate and unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature," she alleged. The conduct allegedly included "being kissed in public against Reber's wishes by a male co-worker, who also grabbed her breast."

Reber wrote that she also received a phone call at home from the co-worker, who told her he wanted to have sex with her. She also alleged receiving unwelcome e-mails of a sexual nature from a co-worker.

Although Reber reported the unwelcome conduct, she wrote, "to the best of her knowledge, no investigations of her complaints occurred and no disciplinary action was taken."

Reber also documented unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature from two co-workers on Feb. 28, 2003, including an embrace she described as a physical assault. In addition to "kissing and licking" of her neck and cheek, she reported "one of her co-workers grinding against Reber as she struggled to squirm free ... while gleefully telling Reber that he was 'rubbing my penis all over your back.'"

She wrote that DOT/PF later denied a resulting grievance, claiming insufficient evidence to discipline the two men she alleged assaulted her. Her union then filed a class-action grievance, which DOT/PF denied, saying it "lacked any specific allegations brought forth in a procedurally correct manner," Reber continued.

Reber added that she has been rejected for four state jobs she has applied for since being reassigned from her dispatcher post.

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