A Marion County employee says she was denied a promotion and degraded based on her gender.
Jamie Namitz, a county worker for 16 years, took to the board of commissioners meeting Wednesday to report being sexually harassed during a job interview.
Namitz said a department manager named Don Newell discriminated against her after applying to become an operations road supervisor for the county in August.
It was near the end of the interview that “discrimination reared its ugly head,” Namitz said. She said she asked interviewers about the highs and lows of the job, what skills they sought and what they perceived as her strengths and weaknesses.
Newell told her the crew wouldn't respect her, Namitz said, and he would constantly have to stand up to other employees for giving her the position. She said there were multiple interviewers in the room, but only identified Newell.
“And then he proceeded to tell me my biggest strength was my sexuality,” she said through tears. “And this was the end of my interview. No one said any words after that. I left the table shocked and appalled.”
Marion County officials told Salem Reporter the county does not comment on personnel issues but did issue a statement. A county spokesperson wasn't immediately aware of what position Namitz currently holds.
“Marion County has a strong policy and expectations for appropriate workplace conduct and we take these matters very seriously,” the statement said. “Discrimination or harassment is unacceptable. We are committed to maintaining a safe workplace for all employees.”
Newell's conduct as alleged is a violation of the county's policy on sexual harassment. According to the county's policies, violators can be disciplined or fired if managers and human resources find the accusations valid.
Reading a statement from her phone for more than three minutes, Namitz claimed Newell’s behavior was part of an ongoing pattern of sexual discrimination and accused county officials of relegating her to a hostile work environment.
“I’m here to put a stop to this behavior, to be the voice for future women at Marion County public works,” Namitz said.
Namitz’s testimony was accompanied by two others, including her sister Mersadee Lulay, who directed comments to Marion County Chief Administrative Officer John Lattimer.
“I’m super disappointed in how this was handled, I just want you to know that,” she said. “It’s disgusting.”
Commissioner Janet Carlson ended the public comments by saying the county does not discuss personnel issues but she appreciated the passion and concern.
“I wanted to tell you first of all that I agree with you, that sexual harassment, discrimination, violence in the workplace cannot be tolerated in Marion County,” she said.
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