Navy Must Pay $1.05 Million To Settle Sex Bias Case
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A 20-year-old sex discrimination suit against the Navy ended Monday with court approval of a $1.05 million settlement but only after the judge blasted the government for ″blatant obstructionism and deliberate delaying tactics.″
The $1.05 million in back pay was divided among 83 women who sued the Navy as part of the class-action discrimination lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Harold Greene held more than a decade ago that the Navy’s computer operations center had hired the women as systems analysts at lower pay grades than similarly qualified male applicants and promoted them more slowly.
His 1981 ruling led to a series of government appeals, including one to the Supreme Court, which ordered Greene to recalculate certain statistical findings.
A negotiated settlement of the case was reached in September and submitted to Greene for final approval. The money already has been paid to the women, lawyers in the case said.
At a hearing where he formally approved the settlement, Greene chastised the Navy and the Justice Department for needlessly contesting ″every conceivable issue″ in the case.
″This court was not surprised by such scandals as the Tailhook affair because they evidence the same implacable opposition by the Navy to fair treatment for women that has been revealed in the present action,″ Greene said, referring to the sexual-assault scandal that has rocked the Navy.
A number of top Navy officials have been disciplined by the Pentagon for failure to prevent sexual assaults on women at the 1991 convention of the Tailhook Association, a private organization of Navy and Marine Corps aviators.
Greene said that he was ″not aware of any other case in which both the government agency being sued for discriminatory activities - here the Navy - and its counsel - the Department of Justice - have engaged in more blatant obstructionism and deliberate delaying tactics.″
The judge said the protracted legal maneuvering was ″designed to wear out the plaintiffs,″ and take advantage of the fact the women were represented by a two-man law firm.
The delaying tactics ″have been determined and inventive to an extent that brings no credit upon the government of the United States.″
Justice Department spokesman Joseph Krovisky said there was no immediate comment from the agency.
Navy spokesman Cmdr. Stephen Pietropaoli also declined to comment on the judge’s remarks. ″We are pleased there has been a settlement reached to the satisfaction of all parties,″ he said.
Bradley G. McDonald, a Washington lawyer who represented the plaintiffs, said government lawyers suddenly showed an interest in settling the case after Bill Clinton was elected president last fall.
Up to that point, ″they had always strenuously suggested they would appeal it yet one more time,″ McDonald said. The proposed settlement was reached after nine months of negotiations, he said.
When he and his partner, John F. Karl Jr., filed the case in 1973, McDonald said he expected that ″it should have been over in several years.″
″It’s sort of a unique and astonishing case,″ McDonald said. ″It has to be a hallmark of the rule of law and perseverance, showing that people, taxpaying citizens and small people, will come out at the end.″