Jennifer Smith’s sexual harassment and gender discrimination case against Eugene/Springfield Public Utility District Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee of Oregon is headed for a resolution. Following an investigation by the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries, the apprentice linewoman’s case has been sent to the Oregon State Apprenticeship and Training Council for a final decision, expected sometime in October.
Smith filed complaints in December 2009 with BOLI asking it to overturn a local JATC ruling that she was not ready to graduate as a journey-level linewoman. She claimed gender discrimination and sexual harassment during her apprenticeship resulted in her failure to graduate. The JATC has cited poor monthly progress reports given by Smith’s superiors for not passing her. Smith has accused one of these superiors of sexual assault.
According to the minutes of an August hearing, Connie Ashbrook, director of the industry trade group Oregon Tradeswomen, urged the council to rule in favor of Smith’s attaining journey-level status. Ashbrook said the ruling would send a clear message to the JATC and the industry that one standard for Smith and another standard for others is unacceptable. Ashbrook claimed Smith’s case is not an isolated incident.
Suni Miani, the first journey-level linewoman in Oregon, urged the council to seriously look at Smith’s testimony, according to the hearing’s minutes. Miani said she believes the JATC is discriminatory and that the testing Smith has completed shows she is skilled, safe and capable of being a linewoman. If she wins her case, Smith is expected to become the second journey-level linewoman in Oregon. Smith was in the final period of her apprenticeship and had completed the required hours of related training when the hold was approved by the committee, the minutes say.