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Lawsuit alleges racial discrimination at Bremerton naval shipyard

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BREMERTON, Wash. -- As more allegations surface of harassment, discrimination and retaliation at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, a lawsuit in federal court alleges an employee of Filipino descent was demoted in a racial discrimination case.

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, Louie Rosales was demoted from a work leader position in 2016 and replaced by two younger Caucasian men. The lawsuit then claims Rosales was retaliated against after filing a formal discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity office.

He has more than 35 years of experience at the shipyard.

The lawsuit claims that when the U.S. Navy settled his original discrimination claim, he was promised a permanent promotion back to his position as work leader. However, after a few months, the lawsuit claims the manager who originally demoted him promoted seven other employees over him and that Rosales was the only applicant not promoted. It also said he was the most senior and only minority applicant.

After filing another complaint through the EEO office, the lawsuit details a number of retaliation claims, including charging Rosales as being AWOL when he said he had expressed permission from his supervisor to leave to deal with his ongoing EEO complaints, a protected activity at the shipyard.

According to the lawsuit, a manager implied, "that [Rosales] might be rewarded for dropping his EEO claim. [The manager] informed [Rosales] that another Filipino employee, who had once brought an EEO complaint and later dropped it, was being considered for a promotion to Work Leader."

As of now, Rosales' attorney said he still works at the shipyard. His lawsuit is set to go to trial in February.

The U.S. Navy denied the allegations in the complaint. When Q13 News reached out to PSNS for comment, a spokesman said they do not comment on pending litigation.

Last week, the U.S. Navy made a six-figure settlement to a former PSNS manager who alleged he was retaliated against for reporting and investigating a sexual harassment claim that was reported to him, according to his attorney Jacob Downs.

Downs also represents Rosales and has four years of experience dealing with claims of shipyard misconduct. In 2016, he secured a $144,000 settlement for a female engineer at PSNS who alleged she had been harassed and discriminated against.

Speaking in broad terms with Q13 News about the shipyard, Downs said the EEO system is broken.

"They're not worthwhile investigations," he said. "There needs to be a restructure of how these complaints are handled, management needs to be involved more and held more accountable and there needs to be more reporting and oversight."

Since shipyard commanders rotate every few years, the majority of allegations did not happen under the current commander, Capt. Dianna Wolfson, who took command this year.

A spokesman for the shipyard has told Q13 News that Wolfson has been troubled by what has come out since a former employee exposed disturbing allegations of sexual assault and harassment on Facebook and to Q13 News last month.

Wolfson signed a pledge with two unions that said, in part, "Discrimination and harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated."

Q13 News has made multiple interview requests to Wolfson to discuss her plans to address concerns about shipyard culture during her tenure.

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