Seattle Union Loses Sex Case, Jury Awards $638,000

A Washington state jury  awarded $638,764 to a ex-union steward Mar. 29 after finding that Int’l Ass’n of Machinists Dist. 160 in Seattle discriminated against her because of her sex. The jury found Dist. 160 violated the Wash. Law Against Discrimination by not hiring Linda Blaney, a senior chief shop steward, as business representative, and also by removing her from the steward position. The order directing the union to pay Blaney was signed April 9.

According to Blaney’s attorney, the jury decided the union illegally failed to hire Blaney as business representative in 1998, 1999, and 2000. The jury awarded her $112,903 in lost wages and benefits, $450,861 in future lost wages and benefits. The jury award on the failure-to-hire charge included no damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress.  In connection with Blaney’s removal from the shop steward job, the jury awarded her $75,000 in pain, suffering, and emotional distress, and no amounts for past or future wages and benefits.

According Blaney’s amended complaint, filed by Stephen Connor and Christopher Ottele, attorneys with Short Cressman & Burgess in Seattle, said Blaney had been a shop steward for 10 years and has been president of IAM Lodge 289 (part of Dist. 160) for seven years. Blaney applied several times to be business representative for the district, but “less qualified males were selected in Blaney’s stead,” the complaint said. Blaney charged that a “substantial and motivating factor” in the union’s actions was her sex. The original complaint was filed in Sept. 1999, a month after Blaney was removed from the union position.

IAM attorney, Lawrence Schwerin, of Schwerin Campbell Bernard in Seattle,  said the union will appeal the verdict on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict and that the judge gave the jury improper instructions and improperly admitted certain evidence. [BNA 4/11/01 (citing Blaney v. IAM Dist. No. 160, Wash. Super. Ct., No. 99-2-22666-6SEA, 3/29/01)].