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MailTribune.com
  • POSTAL ABUSE

    Fired worker awarded $258,000 after suffering verbal abuse from the Medford postmaster
  • A jury Wednesday awarded a former postal worker $258,000 for emotional damage she suffered during years of verbal abuse by the Medford postmaster.
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  • A jury Wednesday awarded a former postal worker $258,000 for emotional damage she suffered during years of verbal abuse by the Medford postmaster.
    Gayle Santoni, 39, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service after she was fired two years ago in retaliation for complaining about Postmaster Jim Foucault's verbal abuse directed at her and several other employees.
    "In the eight years Foucault was my supervisor, I put up with a tremendous amount of abuse," Santoni said. "(Foucault) would constantly cuss and swear at us during meetings.
    "I am looking forward to a bright future after being vindicated by this case."
    Santoni described a hellish atmosphere inside the Medford post office. She said Foucault routinely berated workers by making them stand on chairs in front of other employees while he criticized them. He also called workers explicit names and once referred to Santoni as "our little cheerleader."
    Several postal workers testified against Foucault in U.S. District Court in Medford during the two-week trial.
    A post office work environment investigation in 2002 showed Foucault would routinely change employees' shifts to keep them from having consecutive days off.
    In addition, workers reported Foucault transferred them to undesirable positions for no apparent reason other than retaliation for speaking out against him.
    Since 2000, three people transferred to offices outside Medford to get away from Foucault, according to the post office work environment review.
    Foucault is still employed by the post office. He declined to comment on the ruling when contacted there Wednesday afternoon by phone.
    U.S. Postal Service District Manager Dallas Keck said he was disappointed by the jury's decision.
    Keck, who oversees the Portland district, which includes Jackson County, said Santoni's complaints were dealt with at the time they were voiced eight years ago.
    "Since that time changes have been put into place," Keck said. "There continues to be close supervision and oversight."
    Keck did not comment on Foucault's future with the post office.
    The pressures of the last eight years wore down Santoni to the point she had an "emotional breakdown," she said.
    She was forced to leave her job in July 2004 because of chronic anxiety, nausea and insomnia. A doctor cleared her to return to work in March 2005, with the stipulation that she not be stationed under Foucault.
    She was fired later that year.
    "They told me there was no job left for me here," she said.
    Attorney Paul Breed said the hostilities at the Medford post office are indicative of problems across the country.
    "This is a concern with the culture of the post office, not just in Oregon," Breed said. "It is a closed system that is quasi-military in the way it is managed.
    "It is a ferocious top-down management style and has been like this for many years."
    Breed said post office massacres that have occurred across the nation in the past 20 years have shed light on the harsh environment inside America's post offices.
    Having put the past behind her, Santoni is looking forward to a relatively quiet life outside the post office. She currently is unemployed.
    "I am worried about the people who testified against Foucault who still work there," she added. "I fear there will more retaliation."
    Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.
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