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W.V. woman’s lawsuit accuses Kennecott of sexual harassment

Probe found ‘no reasonable cause,’ mining official says

SHARE W.V. woman’s lawsuit accuses Kennecott of sexual harassment

A West Valley woman is suing her former employer, Kennecott Utah Copper Corp., alleging that repeated sexual harassment by co-workers and discrimination forced her to resign from her job two years ago.

Vicky Yates filed her lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Aug. 10, alleging her hostile work environment, among other things — including being called vulgar names, being grabbed in a violent manner by a male employee and being treated less favorably than her male counterparts — caused her to develop severe emotional distress and a stress-related skin condition.

Yates, who is seeking unspecified damages, is representing herself and declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Kennecott said Yates' complaints have already been dealt with.

"The administrative judge at our anti-discrimination division thoroughly investigated the case and found no reasonable cause and dismissed the charge," said Louie Cononelos, Kennecott's director of government and public affairs.

According to the lawsuit, Yates was hired by Kennecott in May 1994 to do maintenance work. As soon as she was hired, three employees made a $50 wager to see who could get a date with her first, the lawsuit states.

During Yates' training, a crane operator made sexually offensive remarks about her body parts, even after she told him to stop, the lawsuit states. At separate times, according to the lawsuit, her supervisor also grabbed her in a choke hold and forced her hand near his genitals.

As time progressed, the lawsuit says, Yates was passed over for promotions while less qualified male employees were not.

Three years after she was hired hired, a physician determined Yates had been "laboring under considerable emotional distress," according to the lawsuit. Yates complained to a labor relations representative who was unable to substantiate any of her allegations, the lawsuit says.

Yates also discovered several pornographic magazines in the lunchroom and break room and complained about them, but her concern remained "an unresolved issue while she remained a Kennecott employee," the lawsuit states.

On Aug. 11, 1998, a psychiatrist wrote a letter recommending Yates be transferred to another position on account of her "harassing work environment," the lawsuit states. Kennecott attempted to get a second opinion using its own doctor, but Yates refused for fear he might place her on permanent mental disability, according to the lawsuit.

E-mail: dmoody@desnews.com