Editorials

USPS: Why cover-up of sex-harassment complaints?

It took an inexcusable 10 years and at least nine formal complaints by women for action to finally be taken against a Tacoma mail carrier dubbed the “stalker mailman.”

But it wasn’t the U.S. Postal Service that finally responded appropriately to complaints it received; it was the Tacoma Police Department – after a woman reported in 2014 that carrier Robert Taitano had entered her home without permission and asked if she were married.

Following a police investigation, Taitano was charged with assault, harassment and burglary. He has pleaded not guilty.

Among the complaints was one by a salon owner who said Taitano had sexually harassed and stalked her, including once grabbing her buttocks. She asked that her salon be taken off his route but says she was told by a USPS supervisor that he couldn’t be removed “because he is union.”

The USPS has given no reason for why it didn’t report Taitano to authorities, only saying that it had “vigorously” investigated allegations. But it has denied News Tribune requests to see copies of the complaints or paperwork on any investigations of those complaints.

Nor will the Postal Service say whether Taitano is still employed, on administrative leave or delivering mail. However, the TPD investigation cites an October USPS report showing Taitano to be on administrative leave at that time. Is that still the case, or is he back on the job? Is he being paid? No one’s talking.

The police investigation turned up evidence that the USPS recognized it had a problem with Taitano. He was told to attend a counseling session, to be professional and to have no physical contact with customers. Given the number of complaints, that seems like nothing more than a wrist slap.

This sexual harassment case bears a striking resemblance to one more than a decade ago at Western State Hospital. Barrette Green, a union official and a hospital administrator was found to have harassed 15 women over many years.

The state and Green’s union, the Washington Federation of State Employees, ended up paying big bucks to settle with victims because nothing had been done after numerous complaints.

In both of these cases, behavior was overlooked or not treated seriously for much too long – perhaps related to the suspect’s union or civil service protection. But a big difference is that in Green’s case, he was harassing co-workers, fellow union members. Taitano is charged with abusing members of the public – Postal Service customers.

It’s outrageous that it took a police investigation to finally get some action taken against what looks like another case of a serial harasser. The Postal Service let the public down in a big way.

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