A judge has ordered the EEOC to pay Iowa-based CRST’s $4.7 million for legal fees for “bringing frivolous claims” of sexual harassment. The judgment has effectively put an end to CRST’s 6-year sexual-harassment court battle.
In 2007, the EEOC filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against CRST on behalf of current and former employees who said they were victims of sexual harassment at the hands of male drivers and trainers.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Cedar Rapid based company CRST, claiming that up to 150 women have stepped forward with allegations of being groped, sexually harassed, assaulted or propositioned by they men they were training with. Wile many of those claims were sifted out, the EEOC found merit in the allegations of dozens of women.
“I was beaten, I was fondled, I was humiliated and I was taught nothing,” one trainee, Ramona Villareal, said in a deposition.
The sexual harassment case was initiated by a December 2005 complaint from driver Monika Starke, of Azle, Texas, who says she was paired with a driver who constantly made crude sexual remarks and advances.
Out of the skillet and into the fire, Starke escaped the man’s truck, but says she was then paired with another driver who demanded sex in exchange for a passing grade.
After failing to reach a settlement for Starke, in 2007, the EEOC filed a lawsuit on behalf of all female drivers subjected to “a sexually hostile and offensive work environment.” After the EEOC sent letters to thousands of female employees, about 150 gave depositions in which they described being alone for weeks in trucks with male drivers.
Another woman claims her trainer asked for oral sex every morning and told her if she slept with him she’d be guaranteed to pass.
Yvonne Fortner testified that her trainer turned on pornographic movies daily and told her he wanted her to perform similar acts. “And he never let me go a day without telling me that he controlled me passing or failing,”
The EEOC sued on behalf of the women, but the lawsuit backfired and landed the agency itself on trial.
In April, Judge Linda Reade, said the agency used “a ‘sue first, ask questions later’ litigation strategy,” and dismissed the case, then ordered the agency to pay CRST $4.4 million in attorney’s fees, acknowledging “dozens of potentially meritorious sexual harassment claims may now never see the inside of a courtroom.”
The EEOC appealed that ruling and lost again.
The judgement is said to be the largest fee ever decided against the EEOC.