A former manager for a plastics recycling facility has filed a wrongful dismissal suit against Victor Bitar, owner of EcoFocus Inc., a plastics recycler based in Anderson, Ind. Barbara Copeland is suing to regain her position or back wages. A public hearing is scheduled for June 23 before the Anderson Human Relations division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Copeland said she was the only female employee at the plant.
``The salary wasn't all that high, but I never balked at the salary,'' she said. ``Being women, we never expect to see the same salary as men.''
Bitar, who lives in Vancouver, Wash., said he hired Copeland more than three years ago as an executive secretary reporting to the plant manager.
Shortly thereafter, the plant manager left unexpectedly, but told Bitar that Copeland was capable of helping out with managing the plant.
Bitar said he put together a four-member management team to run the plant, but that Copeland ``usurped authority and began dictating to the team what she wanted done,'' though she had no technical abilities.
He alleges Copeland would not work cooperatively with the team, did not file the monthly reports he required and had business cards printed with the title of plant manager under her name.
About 18 months ago, after Bitar began getting complaints from some customers and suppliers, he said, he went to Anderson to try to smooth things over between Cope-land and one particular transporter that brought scrap to the plant.
``Three weeks later, she dumped the transporter,'' said Bitar, who added that Copeland's inability to manage the plant caused him to suffer business losses.
After a management consultant hired by Bitar confirmed the problems, he placed Copeland on indefinite layoff.
``I didn't fire her because I didn't have all the proof I needed at the time that she was the cause of the problems,'' he said.
Copeland said the team was not implemented until 1994, and until then she and a production manager ran the company.
``All I have to go on is my sales figures,'' Copeland said, adding that sales were good during that period.
This is the latest in a series of problems for Bitar, who also does business as Partek Inc., a recycling research and development company in Vancouver, Wash. In December, Partek was evicted from its plant in Vancouver after failing to pay rent and allowing plastic scrap to accumulate around the outside of the building.
The Anderson plant continues to operate and Bitar is looking for a new site in Southern California for Eco-Focus.