Former employee, Julie Brannum, alleges that the company’s owner Michelle Gust encouraged the female employees to “‘sexually flirt with customers to gain a business advantage,’ according to the complaint in Fresno County Superior Court,” Courthouse News Service reported.
Brannum said she endured unwelcome, inappropriate and uncomfortable demands while working for Gust’s company.
“The complaint against Gust, Gust Express and its subsidiary, California Refrigerated Express (CRE), alleges hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful termination, unfair business practices and labor code violations,” the paper reported.
“CRE encouraged the transmission of emails and texts to customers consisting of sexually suggestive language and photographs of their nude and partially nude bodies, a practice in which Gust participated personally,” Brannum said. “CRE, through its owner and corporate president Gust, encouraged body enhancement and CRE or Gust offered to pay for, and did pay for, breast enhancements. Defendants encouraged the use of sexual encounters between customers of CRE and the dispatchers and freight managers, and paid for accommodations at which customers and CRE employees met for sexual encounters, all for the purpose of gaining a business advantage.”
Brannum claims when she confronted Gust with her objections to the sexual behavior, Gust segregated and retaliated against her.
“Plaintiff also was not provided business leads as she had been, but rather the leads were given to those female employees who would, in fact, participate in the sexual activities that were encouraged by defendants,” Brannum said.
“After plaintiff registered the above-mentioned complaints, Gust contacted shippers behind the backs of [Brannum's customers] and ‘back-doored,’ thereby taking away from plaintiff and her customers income that would have otherwise been due her, and created conflict between plaintiff and her customers, all to the damage of plaintiff and for the economic benefit of defendants,” Brannum added.
Brannum says she was embarrassed, disgusted and uncomfortable with Gust’s demands, which ultimately cost Brannum her job.
“After plaintiff complained to the defendants, the defendants acted to isolate plaintiff from her fellow employees, to make fun of her and to redirect business and income from plaintiff to other employees who were willing to participate in the above-mentioned activities,” Brannum said. “Ultimately, plaintiff was damaged in her income until such time as she was contacted by defendants and told ‘Your services are no longer needed.’”
Additionally, Brannum’s objections led Gust to demand Brannum work 783 of overtime and take call on the weekends. Brannum says Gust owes her $68,000 in overtime and call pay for the duration of her 4-year employment with the company.
Brannum is also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.