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SKELTON v. BALZANO

December 7, 1976

Rita M. Skelton, Plaintiff
v.
Michael P. Balzano, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GESELL

GESELL, D.J.:

 This is a sex discrimination case, arising from Government employment, brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., as amended by the Equal Employment Act of 1972 (Pub. L. 92-261). There is no administrative record. The case came to court when ACTION, a Government agency and plaintiff's employer, failed to act on her complaints. After a period of discovery there was a full de novo trial before the Court sitting without a jury. Ten witnesses were heard, the documents and stipulations submitted. Now, after full hearing, the Court enters its findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 The ACTION Agency is charged with responsibility for providing coordination and administration of international and domestic volunteer activities, including the Peace Corps and domestic programs authorized by the Domestic Volunteer Service Act of 1973 (42 U.S.C. § 4951). Plaintiff, a white woman, has been employed by the Agency since July, 1971. Starting at GS-11, in December, 1971, she was promoted to a GS-12. In June, 1972, she transferred to ACTION's Region V Office in Chicago to become a Program Officer for the State of Indiana. Plaintiff was a Program Officer for Indiana at a GS-12 level until March, 1973, when she became Acting State Director for the State of Ohio and served in that capacity until March, 1974, when another woman, Anne Johnson, was chosen as permanent State Program Director of Ohio, a GS-13 position. Ms. Johnson was transferred into the position laterally under an exception to the Agency Merit Promotion procedures. Friction developed almost immediately between plaintiff and Johnson, and plaintiff transferred to Washington where she is now a GS-12 Program Specialist of the Office of Special Volunteer Programs at the headquarters of the ACTION Agency.

 Plaintiff was considered a highly qualified candidate for the Ohio directorship, and had repeatedly received above average performance ratings. The Agency concedes that she performed "adequately" while serving as Acting Director in Ohio.

 Plaintiff seeks a determination that she failed to be selected or recommended for the Ohio directorship because of sex discrimination. She asks for a retroactive promotion to GS-13, designation as a state director, injunctions against reprisal and harassment, damages, and attorneys' fees. She supports her basic sex discrimination claim by reference to the Ohio situation, as well as to other alleged examples of discriminatory treatment, some of which have been resolved administratively as a result of prior complaints.

 While the Ohio situation is the cornerstone of the discrimination claim, the proof went afield to present evidence of examples of sex bias in Region V, and to detail the long and often stormy course of earlier dealings between Kuropas and plaintiff.

 The record reflects a chaotic personnel situation in Region V. Kuropas was beset with turmoil in the staff which his brisk, arbitrary manner and basic insecurity did much to generate. Some men apparently fared no better than some women. He was a martinet.

 Kuropas occasionally bent a rule in favor of men. He had a short fuse, and became angry when his judgment was questioned, particularly by women. His attitude toward equal opportunity programs was negative, causing him, contrary to regulations, to maintain control over EEO complaints. In one instance involving plaintiff the Civil Service Commission determined Kuropas acted against her as reprisal for filing one of her many EEO complaints. Preliminary evaluations of the Region by staff concerned with minority relations showed little desire on his part to deal effectively with minority problems. Affirmative action plans were, however, promulgated, and when women pressed for attention to their problems he made some effort to quiet things down, although he dealt with these matters in a clumsy fashion. He had no personnel management experience. His office was understaffed, the programs new and difficult, and the work went forward under continual stress.

 Complaints by women employees of Region V seeking improved job opportunities were frequent. Early evaluations of the Regional Office reflected many deficiencies in its handling of minority problems and an atmosphere prejudicial to advancement of women. Statistical material stipulated by the parties suggests, but fails to demonstrate conclusively, that women have been less likely than males to be promoted to GS-12 and above in Region V.

 Plaintiff is a self-made professional woman who has advanced from early employment as a secretary into positions of increasing administrative responsibility. She is in large part self-trained. Throughout her Government service she has shown exceptional competence and diligence, working tirelessly long hours, mastering difficult problems as presented, and steadily growing in responsibility. She developed special skills as a programmer, and became knowledgeable as to the procedures, reporting, documentation and other requirements that underly the various grant programs which relate to ACTION's mission. She had difficulties working for the Indiana State Director, a male. He wanted her out. She thought him "stupid," and threw darts at his picture in her office. Kuropas apparently felt the State Director was partly responsible, but recognized plaintiff's weakness in dealing with him.

 Plaintiff was detailed to the Ohio office on March 16, 1973. For the period October, 1972, to March, 1973, she received the highest performance rating possible, one approved by Kuropas himself. She received a rating of "outstanding." Her difficulties with her male boss, the Director of Indiana, apparently were not considered detrimental to her progress. The State Directorship of Ohio, to which she was assigned on an acting basis, was the most significant directorship in the Region. It involved some 68 different programs of consequence to ACTION, and was the largest of the six offices in the Region.

 But the Ohio assignment led to a deterioration of her relations with Kuropas. Ohio was very challenging. It was the most active state, and had the most programs. Plaintiff felt she needed more help and support. She constantly complained by letter and telephone. Her needs were not fully met. Her efforts to change or cut back some programs led to complaints by the state officials involved, who went over her head to Kuropas. A new program was instituted in Ohio from which she and her staff were physically and organizationally excluded. This outraged her, and there was more friction. She continued to complain. The merits or demerits of positions she took can be argued, but basically she often had cause to feel her office was being slighted, particularly when she did not always receive a rational reply. She came to believe her troubles were created by Kuropas' sex bias, and undoubtedly this factor was overemphasized in her mind. ACTION had many problems, including a shortage of funds, changing forms of organization and responsibility, and top management inadequacies in the Region, all of which contributed to her frustrations and accounted for some of Kuropas' actions.

 In August, 1973, plaintiff, by memorandum, said she had no equipment, forms, materials, briefing room or personnel to undertake certain new Volunteer Support Functions, and could not accept the responsibility. Kuropas objected to her raising these matters which he said ...


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