A Tacoma woman has settled a 2016 lawsuit filed against the U.S. Postal Service and a former mail carrier with a long history of inappropriate behavior with women on his routes, including entering homes without permission and suggesting his customers purchase and wear items from lingerie catalogs he delivered.
According to court documents, former mail carrier Robert Taitano pleaded guilty in 2015 to third-degree attempted assault with sexual motivation and first-degree criminal trespass with sexual motivation in connection with the incident involving the woman, who is identified in the lawsuit only by initials. Her young son was also a plaintiff since he was in the house when Taitano sneaked in the front door while the woman was in the shower.
The woman said she was in the bathroom of her Tacoma apartment on Aug. 4, 2014, when she heard her young son say “Hi” to someone in the other room. She entered the living room to find Taitano, in his mail carrier’s uniform, “had one hand on the doorknob and one hand part of the way up the door, and he was very slowly and quietly closing the door.”
The woman said she screamed at him to get out, but that Taitano “smirked” and leered at her, said the door was unlocked, and began to move into the house. Terrified, the woman said she made for a large knife in the kitchen and Taitano fled.
Police conducted an extensive investigation, uncovering several other incidents involving Taitano that the Postal Service was apparently already aware of, according to the lawsuit. Taitano was convicted in connection with the incident involving the woman who sued, and he is listed as a level II sex offender in Pierce County, according to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.
The lawsuit alleges at least 12 women complained over the years about Taitano, some several times, but he remained employed as a mail carrier until his arrest.
The woman settled her lawsuit for $20,000, according to her lawyer, Kevin Hastings, who said the relatively small amount resulted from the case being hamstrung by circumstances and laws that provide federal employees with immunity from lawsuits in most cases, and prevents them from being sued for civil-rights violations that aren’t intentional. Without a civil-rights element — which would have included attorneys’ fees had the lawsuit prevailed — Hastings said the case proceeded under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which also limits when the government or its workers can be sued.
“Given the circumstances and the facts of this case, this was a very frustrating outcome,” Hastings said.
Ernie Swanson, a spokesman for the Postal Service’s Seattle district, said in a statement, “Mr. Taitano hasn’t been employed with the Postal Service since 2015. Even though he is a former employee, under the federal Privacy Act any records related to his employment remain confidential and may not be disclosed.”
Swanson said the Postal Service could not provide any other information.
According to court documents, Taitano was the subject of a string of complaints beginning in 2002 and was terminated once — after the fifth reported incident — only to be reinstated after his union intervened. The 2002 incident involved a woman who complained that Taitano rubbed her back and kissed her on the cheek while he was delivering her mail. He was given a talking to, and returned to work, according to the lawsuit.
The following year, a customer wrote to the Postal Service to complain that Taitano made inappropriate comments, tried to hug her, and circled items in a Victoria’s Secret catalog, on which he wrote “You would look good in this.” He was not disciplined for this incident, according to the records.
There were a total of four complaints about Taitano’s inappropriate behavior in 2003, but he was never disciplined, the suit alleges. In September 2004, he reportedly told another female mail customer that she was very attractive and sought to talk about her sex life.
He reportedly told her, “I could make you feel real good; I’m clean.” The woman complained and, the lawsuit alleges, he was fired by the postmaster, but was reinstated with a 14-day suspension after he and his union appealed.
Court documents say that after he returned to work, he continued his inappropriate behavior — seeking hugs, kisses and sexualized conversations with female customers.
In 2010, Taitano allegedly entered the apartment of a woman while covering another carrier’s route in Madrona Park. The documents indicate he used delivery of a package as a ruse to enter. The woman said Taitano later gave her a box of candy with the words “I love you” written on the wrapper.