SFO boss, city sued over gender discrimination


Sonja Knudson says there is a glass ceiling at the airport for women who want the top jobs. The airport is part of the city of San Francisco and the city has a merit system when they hire employees, a sort of testing process, that's supposed to find the most qualified candidate. Well, Knudson says she has lost faith in that system and that is why she's suing in federal court.

The annual Airport Equal Opportunity Report points out that in the museum department, females are notably underutilized. Knudson is a curator at the SFO museum, which features exhibitions throughout the airport. She says it's especially bad for women in upper management. "For a department of less than 30 people, there's been over 12 men promoted and hired, and I've stayed nowhere. I've gone nowhere," she told ABC7.

Knudson says in the past four years, she's been passed over three times for upper management jobs even though she was most qualified. In the first two rejections, she ranked number one for the civil service positions. The third time, she says the airport changed the job description to include a skill she didn't have. "And that way, it insured that the person they had in mind for that position would be selected," she said.

Knudson filed a discrimination complaint with the city, but says it went nowhere and instead, thrust her under the microscope and then retaliation. Even on Thursday, as ABC7 interviewed her in the museum, someone was recording the conversation with an iPhone from the balcony.

The SEIU, the union that represents city workers, stands behind Knudson in her lawsuit. They say her case is symptomatic of a larger problem of gender discrimination in city government, but victims, they say, are afraid to complain for fear of retaliation. "They're isolated. They have their job duties reduced, their job definement (sic) changed, and it sends a chilling effect to the rest of the employees in the city and county," SEIU Vice President Larry Bradshaw said.

Airport officials declined to comment, saying they have yet to see the suit. It was the same with the city attorney's office, which represents the airport in legal matters.

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