Friday, October 24, 2014

Female Capt. Wins Discrimination Lawsuit

By Mark Edward Nero

Former Matson Navigation captain Katherine Sweeney has won a lawsuit in which she alleged she was discriminated against by the Washington state Board of Pilotage Commissioners because she’s a woman.

Sweeney, who helmed Matson containerships for seven years, had been aiming to become Puget Sound’s first female maritime pilot, but she said she was held back by a “good ol’ boys’ network” and widespread nepotism.

Sweeney was admitted to pilot training in 2007 as the state’s first-ever female pilot trainee and entered into a program that was run at the time by an all-male training evaluation committee and included trainees who were related to their instructors.

Despite performing as well as her male counterparts, Sweeney said, she was denied a license. This led her to sue the state Board of Pilotage Commissioners, which had voted against issuing her a pilot’s license.

In mid-October, a jury agreed with her claims and awarded her $3.6 million. However, she has said she has no intention of again trying to gain a pilot’s license and now works as an industry safety consultant.

“Hopefully, as a result of this lawsuit, this door will change and it'll open for the next woman, but I think it's pretty much shut for me,” she said in an interview with Seattle TV station KING, which first reported the outcome of the lawsuit.

The nine-member Board of Pilotage Commissioners, whose members are appointed by the Governor, said it has not decided if it will appeal the verdict.