April 09, 2012
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a request for a federal appeals court to reconsider a ruling it says would hurt the EEOC's ability to pursue class-action discrimination lawsuits for more than 100 women truck drivers claiming they were sexually harassed by male drivers with an Iowa carrier, reports the Huffington Post.The court dismissed the lawsuit in February with a 2-1 ruling, requiring the agency "to identify every affected worker, investigate their claims and seek informal settlements before suing a company," says the website. This new standard affects lawsuits filed anywhere in the federal circuit stretching from Arkansas to the Dakotas. "The panel's unprecedented imposition of this new requirement will impede EEOC's ability to enforce ... civil rights laws in workplaces with the most widespread discrimination," EEOC lawyers stated in Monday's filing.The harassment suit, against CRST Van Expedited Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, all started with a December 2005 complaint from driver Monika Starke, of Azle, Texas. Starke said she was paired with a driver trainer who constantly made crude sexual remarks and advances. The next driver trainer she paired with, she alleged, demanded sex in exchange for a passing grade.The EEOC was unable to reach a settlement with CRST for Starke, so it filed a lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of all female drivers subjected to "a sexually hostile and offensive work environment."The lawsuit was filed before the agency knew how many employees would be part of the case, the Post says. The agency ultimately identified 270 women, but only 150 showed up for depositions.CRST said it took disciplinary action such as banning offenders from riding with females, reported the Associated Press. The agency's tactics angered U.S. District Judge Linda Reade, reported the Post, saying the judge called them a "sue first, ask questions later litigation strategy." She dismissed the lawsuit and ordered the EEOC to reimburse the trucking company $4.4 million in legal fees in February 2010.The appeals court largely upheld Reade's decision dismissing the case, but threw out the fee award.