Sexual Harassment has become an increasing concern in one of the country’s largest trucking companies. A Federal Agency has received several accounts from female employees detailing harassment while training to become truck drivers at Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based CRST Van Expedited Inc. They recounted that during training rides, in which they were trucking across the country, they had been groped, propositioned, and in some cases even assaulted by the male truck drivers.
According to Ramona Villareal, who trained on one of these cross-country trucking rides, she was beaten and fondled, in addition to not learning anything on the job. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took several trucking companies to court in a class action lawsuit on behalf of these female employees. Unfortunately for the EEOC, a new ruling in the case in February declared that the EEOC must investigate the merits of each claim and make an attempt to reach a settlement with the employer before filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of allegedly discriminated employees.
This ruling affects cases in Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. This ruling will make it harder, and most likely more expensive, to participate in larger discrimination cases in the Midwest like this trucking job focused one. The effect of this ruling means that many of the female workers who have accused their employers of sexual harassment might not only receive additional emotional stress, but they might also lose any compensation that they would have received, both for the mental anguish inflicted upon them as well as the lost job wages.
This is all due to the criticism of the EEOC’s investigation by the court. The criticism voiced in return by the EEOC against the ruling is that it is impractical and almost impossible to follow such instructions for cases involving hundreds or thousands of employees alleging discrimination in the work place. Best case scenario set by this standard, according to the EEOC, is that investigations will take much longer and in turn making relief for victims take much longer as well.
According to P. David Lopez, general counsel for EEOC, the agency is already restricted by limited resources. If the ruling stands it will become increasingly difficult to fairly represent violations of discrimination, including sexual harassment, in that area. Businesses counter that the ruling would not only put a stop to legal tactics that they deem to be unfair, but it would also prevent any unnecessary, and therefore expensive, litigation. Gerald Maatman, Jr., a lawyer representing the companies being sued by the EEOC, believes that the ruling made by the court implies that the EEOC’s tactics over the last few years have been questionable at best. Lawsuits regarding discrimination in the work place tend to cost millions of dollars, in addition to causing severe damage to reputations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, declared that the agency should be more cooperative with the industry, denounced the EEOC’s tactics.
100,000 discrimination complaints regarding the workplace are investigated by the EEOC every year. Last year more than $450 million was gained through the court on behalf of employees.
The Agency will decide whether to appeal the decision by a deadline set for next week.