The Navy has decided that four female civilian workers can participate in sea trials for the recently overhauled missile submarine USS Simon Bolivar, based in Charleston, S.C.
A government attorney said that the move should render moot a lawsuit by a Navy civilian woman, but the employe's lawyer said he will continue to seek a court order to ensure that women have a right to work on submarine shakedown cruises. Navy Secretary James H. Webb Jr. recently ordered that the four women be allowed on the sea trials.
The lawsuit against the Navy was filed by Pamela Doviak Celli, an employe at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.
Celli, according to the Navy, is the only woman who has gone aboard a submarine for trials. She spent four days aboard the USS Benjamin Franklin in 1980.
After that, the government took the position that her presence on the submarine posed problems of privacy, habitability and safety. The government said there is no easy way to segregate a woman from the male crew.
Celli filed suit in U.S. District Court in Maine, seeking enforcement of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruling in her favor.
"The government is really pushing to have the court case dismissed as moot because they say now they are complying with the EEOC order," said her attorney, Joseph McKittrick.
"We are saying, however, 'How can we trust these people after they've been doing this for all these years?' We want a court order cementing this in stone," he said.
Donald J. Mros, handling the government's case, said that because Webb has decided to allow the women aboard the submarine for sea trials, there is no point in further court proceedings on Celli's complaint.
"We're moving for dismissal," Mros said.
Webb said earlier this year that female civilian employes would have "full opportunity to embark in naval vessels on nonoperational, short-term sea trials on the same basis as male civilian employes."
The change does not alter the ban on military women serving on submarines.