By Stan Bailey | Birmingham News
MONTGOMERY – A former Civil Air Patrol employee, Lori Swanson should not have been fired for refusing to sign an employee handbook, a former National Commander of the organization testified Monday in federal court.
Brig Gen Richard L. Anderson, former CAP National Commander, said he told CAP Executive Director Paul J. Albano of Vestavia Hills that Lori Swanson didn’t warrant being removed from her job with CAP’s highly successful cadet program, where she was the director of curriculum development.
”The firing of Lori was not normal circumstances. The handbook was an unapproved handbook. It was still in working form. It was not approved by the (CAP) National Executive Committee,” Anderson testified in Ms. Swanson’s sex-discrimination suit against CAP.
Lori Swanson, former chief of curriculum development for CAP’s cadet programs, said she told CAP Executive Director Paul J. Albano of Vestavia Hills that she needed more time to read the employee handbook before signing that she had received it.
In fact, Ms. Swanson testified, she was afraid signing would undercut her Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against Albano, because the book listed Albano as having the final word on grievances – even complaints against him.
”If a complaint was filed against Albano, nothing would happen and we’d just keep getting beat up on,” Ms. Swanson said under questioning by her lawyer, Jay Lewis.
Women employees at CAP ”suffered harassment, unequal pay, intimidation, discrimination. We were not treated fairly,” she testified.
Ms. Swanson testified that she filed a grievance about Albano with CAP’s equal employment opportunity officer, but ”half the issues were not addressed” and others were inadequately investigated.
Among her complaints were that men in CAP’s personnel office told her to ”do nothing” or ”suck it up” when she complained, and that another former female employee, Lynn Crampton, quit after accusing Albano of ”sexually propositioning her in front of her 10-year-old son,” Ms. Swanson testified.
Ms. Swanson also accused Albano of sexually harassing her once.
She testified that during a national CAP meeting, Albano leaned close to her with his nose in her hair for two or three minutes, while whispering questions about a speaker at the meeting.
Anderson said Albano told him he didn’t get approval for Ms. Swanson’s firing from Paul Bergman, who at the time was CAP’s national commander, because Bergman wouldn’t have let him fire her.
”Bergman felt she was being unfairly treated,” Anderson told jurors during the third day of the trial.
Bergman was concerned, Anderson testified, that the CAP cadet program had declined from about 28,000 cadets in 1988 to about 18,000 when Douglas Isaacson was hired in 1995 to try to turn the program around. Isaacson and the people he hired to help him were successful, Anderson said.
Isaacson hired Ms. Swanson in July 1997. By January 1998, when she was fired, the cadet program membership had increased to about 25,000, and ”that was the bottom line,” Anderson said.
Albano, however, fired Isaacson in May 1998 for talking about Ms. Swanson’s suit to persons other than CAP lawyers. Isaacson then also sued CAP, and his suit was combined with Ms. Swanson’s lawsuit for trial before U.S. District Judge Harold Albritton.
A jury of five women and three men is hearing evidence in the cases, which concluded on behalf of the plaintiffs Monday. Lawyers for CAP were expected to offer witnesses on behalf of the organization today.
Col Greg Florey, inspector general at Air University, testified Monday that Ms. Swanson came to him with her dispute and he told her he lacked jurisdiction over the corporation.