Thursday, October 28, 2010


DON’T WORRY YOUR PRETTY LITTLE HEAD: Will wonders never cease?

The local newspaper’s police beat reporter Paul Curtis actually dared to name Dexter Shimatsu as the harasser of Kristan (Hirakawa) Suniga- a case we detailed last December and have written about many times this year- in today’s paper.

But- and didn’t you know there’d be a but?- instead of finally detailing all the horrors of the case, Curtis spent the bulk of the article concentrating on a minor aspect - the fact that one of the incidents detailed in Hirakawa’s suit happened via email- and trying to therefore crusade for getting the county to stick Shimatsu with the $450,000 settlement (which we first reported earlier this month) due to some on-line county policy Shimatsu signed.

But of course Curtis and his newspaper of record still haven’t reported on harassment suit by “Kaua`i Bus” driver Kathleen M. Ah Quin to go with the short shrift given the Hirakawa suit.

Gee let’s take a guess at why. Could it be because the alleged harasser in that case- which apparently remains unsettled- happens to be Executive on Transportation Janine Rapozo, wife of Lenny Rapozo, head of Department of Parks and Recreation and former campaign manager for Mayor Bernard Carvalho, and whom, we’ve heard over and over from county employees, “runs” the county politically?

That may also explain why the case remains unsettled. It also might explain what we reported in December of 2008.

Just as appalling as the actual discrimination is the fact (Ah Quin’s) lawsuit was filed only because a year went by after Ah Quin’s filing of Hawai`i Civil Rights Commission (HCRC) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints without any attempt by the county to respond or even attempt to investigate the charges.

At a special council meeting called at the end of November the County Attorney at the time Matthew Pyun asked the council for $50,000 to hire an outside attorney to respond to the suit.

And outgoing councilpersons Shaylene Iseri Carvalho and Mel Rapozo (no relation) were livid.

“You’ve got to read this” shrieked Iseri waving a copy of the suit over her head. “The County Attorney’s office has not engaged in any investigation (for a year) and now wants to hire an investigator” when there’s only 20 days to respond.

She told the council that she would not use taxpayer money without a commitment to investigate complaints when they are filed, saying she was “disgusted” and how the situation was “typical of the wasteful spending” of the administration and specifically the county attorney’s office.

She also questioned why it would cost $50,000 to respond since the first 20 day response is really a pro-forma type of thing that should rightfully be done “in-house” before hiring an outside attorney if it becomes necessary to defend the suit.

Councilmember Rapozo- who with Iseri voted against the approval of the funds even after the request was amended to $20,000- described how no one with the county ever spoke to any of the employees names in the suit or investigated any of the incidents.

You’ve got to read all the disgusting details of Ah Quin’s harassment to get the flavor of J. Rapozo’s county-protected treatment of women on the job on which she remains.

But getting back to the Hirakawa suit. For those who have forgotten or never read the facts surrounding the suit, the local paper fails to mention a previous settlement received by Hirakawa when she was working for Cutis’ beloved, can-do-no-wrong Kaua`i Police Department.

As Hirakawa’s suit stated

(p)reviously, in approximately 2001, Plaintiff was employed as a dispatcher for the Kauai Police Department when she was sexually harassed by a co-worker. Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). As a result of the previous case, Plaintiff suffered serious physiological injury due to the sexual harassment, improper response to her legitimate complaint and loss of privacy that was inflicted on her while working in the Kauai Police Department. The matter settled without admitting fault.

Defendant County of Kauai agreed to identify and assist Plaintiff with obtaining another County job as a result of settlement negotiations in the previous case. Ultimately, Plaintiff obtained employment at the Kauai County Liquor Commission.

We’ll end by re-running the full story- the predicate facts as they call them- of Shimatsu’s harassment of Hirakawa according to her suit.

The County of Kauai, obviously aware of Plaintiffs previous case and emotional condition, placed her in a workplace with a known sexual harasser as a co-worker and a supervisor with no prior training in sexual harassment law. On information and belief, the County of Kauai has consistently failed to meet its legal obligations to identify and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Upon relocation to the Kauai County Liquor Commission, Plaintiff was immediately subject to offensive conduct on the basis of her sex. Her supervisor, Dexter Shimatsu, made sarcastic comments about sexual harassment to Plaintiff, often alluding to her history of having made a sexual harassment complaint. Shimatsu complained to Plaintiff that he had to order all of the posters [of scantily clad women] removed from the workplace because the "County made me hire you."'

During the course of her employment Plaintiff was often the subject of ridicule, sexual innuendo, sexual emails and insults from her supervisor. Shimatsu called her holistic medical practitioner a "witch doctor", and wrote an email to her saying: Use your common sense...I think you'll stay healthy...Oh yeah, and sleep with your clothes on. You could catch a cold, the flu and get pregnant without your clothes on...all bad ailments.

Shimatsu's demeaning conduct continued. After Plaintiff entered her baby into a contest (which she did not win), Shimatsu left a newspaper clipping of the winning baby in her mail bin where all her co-workers could see it. Above the picture of the winning mother and baby Shimatsu wrote a note saying: I really think the baby won because the mother was cute. With that in mind, you really need to do something about your baby can win. Your baby did her part by being cute... it's now up to you.

In May 2007, Shimatsu called Plaintiff into his office to tell her he heard from someone that her boyfriend was getting deployed to the Middle East. He stated, "You should buy your boyfriend a lot of condoms because there are a lot of prostitutes where he'll be stationed." He followed up in an email saying he doesn't think there are really prostitutes there.

At work the sexual harassment was incessant. Shimatsu continued degrading Plaintiff calling her such names as "tonta," meaning slow, dumb or stupid, and "shibai." Shimatsu made insolent comments about Plaintiff when she made a mistake but did not treat her co-workers rudely.

When she requested vacation time to care for her four month-old baby, Shimatsu responded in a memo stating: Your request for Vac/ Ct...was approved after much discussion...Lady, you give me a headache... always asking for special treatment as a female. I kind of feel its sexual harassment and should look into it. I think that's the only way I'm going to get rid of this nasty headache...what you think?

Plaintiff noted that other employees were not subject to insolent comments when asking for time off.

On another occasion, Shimatsu emailed to Plaintiff a photo of an attractive female dressed only in a tiny, diamond studded bikini. Shimatsu typed "You Wish" on the email before sending the email to Plaintiff from his work computer.

Plaintiff was unable to be in such a virulent environment where working meant being in constant dialogue with the perpetrator. She took leave on a disability claim. She sought medical help and counseling because of the harassment and discrimination at the Kauai County Liquor Commission. Under direction of Plaintiffs medical providers, she was not allowed to resume working while the harasser remained there or until the situation had been corrected.

In June of 2007, Plaintiff reported the sexual harassment to the County and sought disability leave from work.

The County did not pay on Plaintiffs disabilities claim and did not separate her from Shimatsu.

The County has failed to properly respond to or address the alleged sexual harassment complaint raised by Plaintiff.

The County broke its own County policy on sexual harassment as promised to Plaintiff and other County employees in a number of respects. First, the County promises that complaints of sexual harassment will be investigated within two weeks time. No timely investigation was done in Plaintiff's case. Secondly, County policy promises that the findings and results of an investigation into a complaint of sexual harassment will be made available to the complainant. The results of any investigation into sexual harassment have still not been made available to Plaintiff. And thirdly, County policy promises that corrective action will be taken when a County employee suffers from sexual harassment. On information and belief, no such corrective action has been taken.

Upon information and belief, the County's policy on sexual harassment in the workplace was intended to comply with applicable law.

Furthermore, the County ignored State and Federal law regarding the matter being pursued. The County instead protected the accused, her supervisor Shimatsu, offering no remedial action to Plaintiff and failing to conduct even a basic investigation for several months.

In many cases, County policy directs employees to report allegations of sexual harassment to the Office of the County Attorney to ensure, among other things, that the County acts in compliance with State and Federal law. However, in this case, the Office of the County Attorney chose to arbitrarily dispute Plaintiff's claim without adequate investigation and contrary to State and Federal law.

Upon information and belief, the County used a woman with no prior training or experience in sexual harassment investigations to perform the investigation of Plaintiffs complaint of sexual harassment.

A few months later, Plaintiff, through counsel, asked the Office of the County Attorney if she could have the results of its investigation(s) in Plaintiff's report of sexual harassment. The request was made pursuant to Haw. Rev. Stat. Ch. 92F et seq. (The Hawaii Public Records Act), but the Office of the County Attorney failed and/or refused to provide the results of the investigation to Plaintiff's attorney.

In August 2007, the County contacted Plaintiff and informed her that an interview was forthcoming, but it wasn't until September 14, 2007 when Ann Wooten, the chosen investigator, interviewed Plaintiff.

On information and belief, the County never asked Shimatsu if the Plaintiffs allegations against him were true.

The investigation was only performed after Plaintiff's disability pay had expired. The County left Plaintiff, a single mother of two, in a precarious financial position because of the delay in investigating her complaint and the lack of corrective action taken.

Plaintiff remains unable to resume working in direct contact with the same supervisor. Her accumulated losses approximate $50,000.00 even after mitigating wages lost by securing lower-paying employment. Her new position pays significantly less than her employment with the County.

The aforesaid events have changed the course of Plaintiff's life and career.

Plaintiff has complied with the administrative procedural requirements for maintaining a civil action for discrimination on the basis of sex and for retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Plaintiff filed the aforesaid charges with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions, and the EEOC has made a determination of cause to believe that the alleged sexual harassment occurred.

On November 13, 2008 the EEOC found that "The Commission's investigation determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that Charging Party was subjected to sexual harassment because of her sex, female."

Thereafter the EEOC issued a "Right to Sue" letter and Plaintiff, and timely filed this action with 90 days of issuance of her Right to Sue letter, issued on March 3, 2009.

At all relevant times herein, the acts of the County were undertaken within the course and scope of Plaintiff's employment.

Wow- you made it this far without vomiting on your keyboard.


We’ll be taking a long weekend. See ya Monday.


Kessa said...

Andy, I'm confused. You've mentioned the Kauai Bus harassment case so often that I decided to look for more information online. A quick Google search of "Kathleen M. Ah Quin" reveals that United States District Court for the District of Hawaii on April 1, 2010 issued a Summary Judgement in favor of the defendant, COUNTY OF KAUAI DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ET AL. DEFENDANTS. It seems that Ms. Ah Quin neglected to mention in her bankruptcy filing of April 4, 2009 that she had a lawsuit (in excess of $800,000) pending. "Accordingly, Ah Quin is judicially estopped from pursuing the claims against Defendant in this case and summary judgment is granted in Defendant's favor."

Andy Parx said...

Thanks Kessa.

I'll look into it but I rechecked yesterday and according someone with council services they are still fighting the case and the council appropriated more money to fight it at their June 9th 2010 meeting.

Andy Parx said...

One possibility is that there is a state court case and a federal court case and the federal one was dismissed. But as I said I'll look into it further.