Federal court order gives DOT six months to train everyone in its Airports division in non-discrimination practices.
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U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright ordered Hawaii’s Department of Transportation on Thursday to complete training within six months for all of its Airports division employees on preventing sexual harassment or discrimination.
“The court believes that DOT-Airports’ current training efforts are not adequate, given past events,” wrote Seabright. His order comes in a case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of a former state employee, Sherry Valmoja, who worked as the handler of an explosives-detecting dog at Honolulu International Airport.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Airports division employs more than 1,120 workers on the various islands.
DOT officials terminated Valmoja in May 2012, after she had filed numerous complaints about an ongoing campaign of sexual harassment and intimidation by another employee, Mark Morris. Morris was fired in March 2012. A federal jury awarded Valmoja $38,000 in December 2015 after finding that state officials failed to address the problem and had engaged in retaliation against her, including implying her dog would be taken away and euthanized.
Seabright noted in his order that the department has taken steps to hold supervisors responsible for addressing complaints of harassment and discrimination. He also noted that the department hired a new Equal Employment and Affirmative Action officer, has improved training, and has taken other steps. However, his order also noted that in the last three years, only a little more than half of DOT-Airports’ 1,123 employees have received the relevant training.
In a written statement, DOT officials said the department “is pleased with the order,” and immediately will begin providing additional training to its employees and posting notices as required by the order.
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