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  Report on Cheney, Bathrooms

By Larry Margasak
Associated Press Writer
Friday, Sept. 8, 2000; 3:00 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON –– Citing "cultural differences," the company that GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney headed for the past five years maintains separate restrooms overseas for its American and foreign employees.

Halliburton Co. said Cheney was unaware of the segregated restroom policy in effect during his years as chairman.

The Dallas-based energy services company, a major federal contractor operating in more than 100 countries, said the policy was "not an attempt to demean any employee" and was "no different than Eastern countries that often designate facilities for use by Westerners."

A State Department official said he had never seen a similar policy in trips and assignments to four continents.

And a leading public health professional said, absent evidence of unsanitary practices, he could see no justification for directing Americans and foreign hires to separate facilities.

At least two Americans who worked for Halliburton in Kosovo complained to the company.

"I thought segregation went out in the '60s," former employee Amy Katz wrote to a friend last September, a month before she was fired by the company in Kosovo. She subsequently challenged the dismissal in a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Katz, 32, of Gig Harbor, Wash., alleges she was a victim of retaliation as a result of reporting sexual harassment, gender discrimination and concerns about company policies, including the separate restrooms.

The EEOC has not yet ruled on her complaint.

Cheney became chief executive of Halliburton, an oil services conglomerate, in October 1995 and chairman in early 1996, before retiring last month to join the Republican ticket. Halliburton has received $2 billion in federal contracts to support U.S. troops on peacekeeping missions through its Brown & Root Services unit.

Juleanna Glover Weiss, a Cheney spokeswoman, said while she had no information on the bathroom facilities, Cheney "has never tolerated sexual harassment in any organization he's headed or been a part of, be it in Congress, at the Defense Department or at Halliburton. All allegations, he believes, are to be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators punished."

Cindy Viktorin, a Halliburton spokeswoman, said Cheney was not aware of the restroom policy and the company would not comment on individual discrimination complaints.

The company addressed the bathrooms in a written statement: "With a diverse and global work force, the company recognizes the cultural differences and cultural practices in the regions of the world."

The company has landed peacekeeping-support contracts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia and Hungary, and also works in the former Soviet Union in a program to dismantle intercontinental ballistic missiles and their silos.

In Kosovo, where Brown & Root has more than 4,500 employees, the company acknowledged that "two former employees were concerned that the company provided restroom or portable toilet facilities that were different for the local 'Host Country Nationals' (HCN) than for the Americans."

The company uses "the same basic style of portable toilet for all employees in Kosovo" but recognizes "the cultural differences in how each group uses the facilities," the statement said. The practice of designated facilities "is not limited to the Kosovo area," it said.

Richard Levinson, associate executive director of the American Public Health Association, said unless local cultural practices involve unsanitary conditions, "I can think of no health-related reason for segregating them. Heaven help us, Americans can create as big a mess as anyone."

The association of 55,000 health professionals aims to improve the health status of people throughout the world.

Bill Wanlund, spokesman for the State Department Bureau of Economic and Business affairs, said, "I've been to private companies in six countries on four continents and I have not seen that kind of differentiation. When you go to an American embassy or consulate, there is no separation of facilities."

Katz said she arrived in Brown & Root's Kosovo headquarters building last September when the former Serbian military facility was under renovation.

She said four portable toilets – two for the ethnic Albanians, two for the Americans – were outside the building during the renovation and an ethnic Albanian security guard was stationed nearby.

"I was totally outraged. I refused to use the ones for the Americans," Katz said, even though the guard tried to persuade her not to use the Albanian-only facilities. "I tried to explain that I thought this was terrible and it was my way of protesting it," she said.


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© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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