Follow by Email

Sunday, March 3, 2013

EEOC Running Amuck - Federal Judges Reign Them In
Article  thanks to RYAN J. FOLEY Associated Press and ABC News. Link provided below:
IOWA CITY, Iowa February 11, 2013 (AP)

A trucking company will pay $50,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, a token payment to avoid trial in a closely watched case that has sharply limited the government's ability to file large workplace discrimination lawsuits in several states.
Cedar Rapids-based CRST Van Expedited, Inc. agreed to the payment Friday to Monika Starke, the lone remaining plaintiff in what had once been a major lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In exchange, the company avoided the cost of defending itself against Starke's allegations that it was too slow to respond to her claims that a male trainer had sexually harassed her.
The settlement is a pittance compared to what CRST, one of the nation's largest interstate trucking companies, might have had to pay if federal judges hadn't drastically narrowed the scope of the lawsuit and made it harder for the EEOC to pursue class-action discrimination cases in the region.
In an unusual provision for an EEOC settlement that underscores how badly it fared, CRST will be allowed to try to recoup from it millions of dollars the company spent fighting allegations by other women that were dismissed.
CRST CEO David Rusch said Monday he believes the company would have prevailed at trial, but agreed to the settlement to avoid spending up to $1 million defending itself. He said the company has already spent more than $12 million on attorneys, and hopes a judge will order the commission to pay some of those costs.
Rusch said the EEOC filed a lawsuit before interviewing all the women who it alleged were victims. He said sexual harassment did happen at CRST, but company officials had procedures for reporting and preventing it.
"Somebody was claiming that we tolerate harassment, which is absolutely erroneous, absolutely a witch hunt, and that's why we took the aggressive posture that we did," he said.
The case began with a 2005 complaint from Starke, an Azle, Texas, driver who alleged that she was paired with a male colleague who constantly made crude sexual remarks and advances toward her. The company denied her claims.
After failing to reach settlement, the EEOC filed a class-action lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of female CRST drivers who it said were subjected to offensive comments, groped or even assaulted by male trainers and co-drivers during cross-country trips.
The commission sent letters to notify female employees, and dozens stepped forward with complaints. CRST is known for its "team driving" concept, in which trucks are driven by two drivers who alternate between driving and sleeping.
CRST argued that it immediately investigated reports of harassment and took actions such as reassigning drivers. Complaints by many of the women already had been dealt with internally, Rusch said.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade faulted the commission for being slow to identify the class and complained that its lawyers were using the discovery process to identify victims and investigate claims, rather than doing so beforehand. Eventually, the agency said it would bring claims for 270 women, but only 150 were deposed by a court deadline.
For various legal reasons, all the claims except Starke's were ultimately dismissed. Reade acknowledged that she threw out potentially worthy allegations by dozens of women because the commission took a "sue first, ask questions later" litigation strategy.
Last year, a panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases from the Dakotas to Arkansas, largely upheld Reade's ruling in a 2-1 decision, but reinstated Starke's claim and set aside Reade's award to CRST of $4.5 million in legal fees.
The panel ruled that the EEOC must investigate the claims of every potential victim and seek informal settlements on their behalf before filing class-action lawsuits. This made it harder for the government to pursue similar class-action cases in that region than anywhere else in the U.S.
Commission officials have argued that the stricter standard would impede its ability to enforce laws at workplaces with widespread discrimination and harassment. They say it is impractical to identify every possible victim in large cases and the requirement may reward employers who withhold information.
"This case has been a bad dream for the EEOC," said Chicago lawyer Gerald Maatman, who represents companies sued by the EEOC. "Their position has been rejected pretty thoroughly and it's created problems for them. And now employers are pressing this argument in other areas of the country."
He said the standard is important because employers facing commission lawsuits want to know how big damages could be before deciding whether to settle. Judges in the 6th Circuit recently ruled in the commission's favor in a similar case, ruling that a lawsuit against Cintas Corp. on behalf of female employees in Michigan could proceed.
The parties reached Friday's settlement after Reade ruled that 15 other women who claimed harassment would not be allowed to testify at Starke's trial. Maatman said he now expected "a big battle" over whether and how much the commission should pay in fees.

This touched off a debate I had with Desiree Wood on LinkedIn, which I have posted below if you care to read it. I'll have to admit, she makes some good points in that some trucking companies need to do a better job making an effort to protect their drivers.

Transportation Employers

Because the trucking industry is a male-dominated industry in which women remain a minority, transportation employers have frequently encountered sex harassment and sex discrimination lawsuits. Although the Equal Employment...
9 days ago

    Daniel Bridger • I get the point you are making Desiree, but the EEOC running amuck basiclly lost their case. CRST is even allowed to persue recovery of their legal costs from the EEOC. It would be so foolish of a company the size of CRST to condone harassment, the EEOC has to go trolling for "victims" to make a case!
    6 days ago
    Desiree Wood • Hi Daniel:

    It's easy to speculate about our "common sense" on harassment policies but once you have worked in one of the 3 or4 mega carriers who have little communication between departments and about 100 new students each week at orientation you will better understand the circuslike atmosphere.

    In a recent blog talk radio program I co-hosted just a few weeks ago a recent CRST female student talked about the very same conduct. Dispatchers not letting her get off the truck after being hit on by a co-driver/trainer , being spoken to like she was an idiot and twisting the facts around to make her seem as though she was guilty of something.

    Tracy Tuttle Hamm formerly of CRST , who was a student, later a trainer at CRST and part of the orginal case is also part of my Women Truckers Group. The similarities of the "business model" to handle female complaints about sexual misconduct at CRST and at Covenant Transport is startling.

    I have been friends with Tracy since she posted on my blog about the case in 2008 and the way CRST still continued to "operate" post EEOC case filing.

    Yes, the EEOC mishandled the case. I have spoken to them personally and gathered they were not aware how many complaints were filed that 'THEY" never followed up on until "ONE" caught their attention.

    The EEOC failed on many levels but in contrast the Karen Shank Case, a female student from CRST who was able to secure a private law firm to fight the carrier a $1.5 Million by jury judgement was made. She was not even asking that amount. Now we have Judge Reade not allowing 15 females to testify to the jury in the Monika Starke case saying it will confuse tham?
    Confuse them or convince them?

    Unless you have seen how these carriers operate AND really care it's hard to grasp how gulity these carriers are for their lack of professional leadership. Even the people who wish to make a difference and raise the standards are prevented from doing so. I have seen it first hand and seen people resign because they were flabbergasted with the "business model"

    This case should be a wake up call that there a some in this industry who care little about human dignity and to defend them is to condone the behavior.

    This is not one carrier this is going on at. It is primarily reported at carriers who train students and recruit at enormous levels week after week when they do not have enough qualified trainers and/or have a team driving component associated to training.

    This includes the following carriers: CRST Van Expedited, Covenant Transport, CR England to be the most reported incidents to my group. Prime Inc also has some pending litigation in this same area but a little different where they fired a female student because they could not provide a female trainer and would not let her train with a male which is also not a solution.

    If a carrier cannot provide a professional training environment they should not be training students.

    A recent CR England female student who also was a guest on our radio program recounted her experiences to me in the phase 2 training portion that is identical to the CRST second phases or training and my personal experiences at Covenant Transport..

    All say "Zero Tolerance" to sexual harassment but in practice that means nothing. You are stuck on a truck with a person who becomes hostile when rejected and then made to feel like you are the problem for reporting the conduct.

    Numerous Women have gone and offered ideas to correct the problems and what you get are plastic talking heads smiling, agreeing and doing nothing.

    You can listen to the replay radio program at the title is 'Qualified CDL Training?"

    Daniel Bridger • Desiree,
    I'll have to say, I've worked for Ryder for over 20 years and do not have first hand knowledge about how other major carriers treat their drivers. Of course, I have heard stories.
    I do know that my company takes harassment very seriously and have personal knowledge of employees being terminated because of it.
    I do not doubt there are serious abuses out there and they should be investigated and companies held responsible if they do not deal with the issue.
    Seems to me though, the only thing the EEOC cares about is to win huge damage claims.
    How about, if they put some effort into working with carriers and suggesting ways to be in compliance?
    For instance, could you imagine the consequences of a carrier coming out with a policy that only same sex people can partner and drive team? The EEOC would be first in line to bring about a major lawsuit against them!
    Respectfully, Dan
    5 days ago

    Desiree Wood • Hi Daniel:

    When the EEOC fails the Taxpayers pay, Sexual Harassment in the workplace violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and employers should be enforcing what is already the law of the land.

    In my opinion there are few law graduates who aspire to work for the EEOC, probably not the best paying gig and I would imagine overworked in an inefficient system.

    The EEOC is not a private firm, it is an equation to getting a public defender. Not the best counsel to retain but for some the only option.

    The carriers I speak of DO HAVE polices that they DO NOT enforce. They DO HAVE knowledge of the law but they dance around it.

    A few bad apples should not make the whole basket bad but in this industry there is resistance to call out offenders and demand they clean up their house.

    I am glad that Ryder has a working policy but in this industry we must recognize that truck driver training requires a unique set of challenges in living arrangements so it cannot be compared to other industry related environments.

    When you have a job where you go home at night to collect your thought and regroup you have a better chance of making a decision to protest.

    When you are isolated on a truck with someone trying to harm, coerce, threaten or intimidate you and you have little ability to communicate to the outside world or any QUALIFIED internal leadership it becomes an entirely different scenario.

    Although some may not be able to fully relate that should not make it okay to keep looking the other way and making excuse for the carriers who keep popping up on consumer complaints boards and in litigation.

    These carriers do not just have excessive sexual harassment complaints; they have numerous complaints about employment practices that are in general "Hostile" and these carriers do know how to fix the problems but they choose not to raise their low standards in a very complacent industry that looks the other way.

    I appreciate the you taking the time to discuss this because most do not have the courage to start talking about what this issue really is, how it is being dealt with and by whom.


    3 days ago• Like
    Samuel Barradas • I'm really glad to see sensible discussion of this topic despite you two being on separate sides of the issue. Whenever I've published articles about this case on my site it generates dozens of comments, and I always have to delete a few viciously sexist remarks. I don't know what the solution is to make driver training safe for women, but the attitude that woman need to "just deal with it" makes everything an uphill battle.
    2 days ago• Like
    Desiree Wood • I agree Samuel; the "serving in silence" policy is not getting us anywhere. Can you share with me some of your writings?

    The solutions for the training carriers are the following:
    1. Prepare students who are recruited from all walks of life, diverse education levels and cultural backgrounds to practice mutual respect for one another on every level or they will be terminated and follow through.
    2. Provide training modules with video role playing segments on what NOT to do with a Trainer, Student, Co-Driver and have a multiple choice quiz at the end that must be completed to get to next question. This is done for Winter/Mountain driving skills so why not sexual misconduct during training?
    3. It must be made crystal clear what emergency after hours numbers are to reach help before students leave the orientation center and they should know how to create a Qualcomm SOS, often this knowledge is withheld and I get reports of control freak trainers even taking Qualcomm and locking it in side compartment to keep student from getting their hands on it.
    4. A student liaison should touch base with students to see how it’s going. They should recognize the signs of hesitation displayed when someone is near the breaking point and if a student reports they want to get off a truck they should get them off immediately before the situation escalates into violence. This is often where the ball is dropped and the HR dept. generally does not even know what is going on because the dispatchers and fleet managers keep the student believing they are "working on it" when often they are doing no such thing.

    These are just a few things and this post from the HR blog is very helpful as well.

    What I found was although there were "executive council" drivers who for "show" were mentors for students and there was a " ethics advisory" panel in place... I was taken aside on more than one occasion to be told I would be better off to remain silent about the issues I experieced.

    So not only is there no proper training, no enforcement, there is a general understanding is " not use the grievance information you receive in orientation or you will really have a target on your back..."

    The communication channels are so full of middle management and excuse makers and the turnover rate so high that many of these high volume student carriers could care less about the next bus load of students walking in the door. Most will be gone in 3 months, almost all of them gone by the end of the year.

    I would like to see exit interviews of students who leave these carriers by a third party that does not have a conflict of interest.

    They do not value these people as individuals who have families that are counting on them at home to succeed in this new job they have invested what little money they have an enormous time to learn.

    So the lack of respect for the students overall in these types of carriers as a business practice is something few would comprehend until they saw it up close and personal.

    ...and in this environment... females, are most likely to fall thru the cracks because management is asleep at the wheel.

    In my opinion the industry as a whole must educate themselves on how these carriers conduct themselves and demand accountability.
    2 days ago• Like
    Samuel Barradas • Sure thing, here are some articles I published about the CRST case and another about Central Refrigerated:

    I've become pretty good at making online quizzes thanks to the CDL practice test section on my site. If you ever need help turning a training module into an interactive online lesson, let me know and I'd be glad to lend a hand.
    2 days ago• Like
    Charles Miller • I have seen a real 180 from students @ the technical school where I teach after viewing video from Truckers Against Trafficking. This may be one way to train drivers: How would we treat our sisters or daughters?
    2 days ago• Like
    Desiree Wood • Hi Charles: Kylla of Truckers Against Trafficking is a friend of mine and the strategy that they used to go around the resistant training carriers is one I would like to implement myself which is to get the students before they graduate CDL schools and make a decision on what training carriers to attend.

    I beleive by doing this it will begin to highlight who is doing responsible training and who should be avoided and why.

    I understand that some carriers pay commisions to get access to these students for recruiting but my hope is that technical schools, community colleges would want to steer these people to a place where they will not be set up to fail at a carrier that takes pride in putting safe drivers on the road and provides a safe training experience.
    1 day ago• Like
    Desiree Wood • Great Articles Samuel! Thanks for brining the links and the driver feedback is very valuable. The industry executives insulate themselves from hearing what the drivers say and therefore it does not seem to happen.

    When I worked for Covenant Transport I asked them on more than one occasion to use their media department to create some training films like they have on numerous other topics regarding driver conduct. The answer was always a smiling "Great Idea" I even watched Joey Hogan jot a note in his little pad of paper but of course we drivers knew this is for show only.

    Tracy Tuttle , who was part of the original CRST case and is now a trainer for USA truck said she experienced the same thing when she would take a list of solutions to upper managment. She said they would sneak out the back way just as she made it to their office or they would smile and accept the ideas and do nothing with them.

    At Covenant Transport they have all the tools to create such training materials right now but they simply do not do it and this is really the problem.

    Thanks again for the articles, I hope you keep writing on the topic and please share them to me I will post them on our Facebook community page called 'Real Women Truckers" which feeds into our twitter.



    1. I have to take issue with the "trolling" comment. The EEOC does not look for individuals to represent. Only after a complaint is filed and is found with merit does the EEOC find victims that have been dealt with in the same manner. Actually it is 2 to 3 years after the complaint is filed by an individual that a case becomes a class action. To have an opinion on any case I feel that you need to investigate into details that led to the filing of a class action. If not an opinion is not acceptable.

      1. First off, thank you for the comment. All opinions are welcome and I did publish Desiree's rebuttal and she did have some very valid points. However, even the judge stated that he felt the EEOC was using the discovery process to identify victims and investigate claims. If that doesn't constitute "trolling" for victims, I don't know what would.