CRST settles EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 2/13/2013

CRST Van Expedited Inc. of Cedar Rapids, IA, has agreed to settle a lawsuit for $50,000 prior to the trial of a former driver who claims she was sexually harassed by a male trainer while working for the company.

The decision was reached on Feb. 11 between CRST and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Monika Starke, who claimed she was forced to stay on the truck after reporting to her dispatcher that her male trainer was sexually harassing her in 2005.

Christine Saah Nazer, public affairs specialist with the EEOC’s office of communications and legislative affairs, told Land Line on Tuesday, Feb. 12, that in the agency’s view “the settlement was an equitable one.”

“The $50,000 payment reflects a fair evaluation of the commission’s claim for relief for Monika Starke,” Nazer said. “Although we regret that it was not possible for the commission to obtain relief for other victims because of the court’s decision to bar the trial of the broader harassment claim, we are encouraged by rulings of the Sixth Circuit and several district courts that have permitted the commission to go forward with a claim seeking relief for multiple victims of a common practice.”

In January, a federal judge denied the motion to allow the testimony of 15 former CRST female truck drivers prior to Starke’s trial.

U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade ruled at that time that the testimony from the 15 female drivers would not be allowed because they did not have the same male trainer or dispatcher as the plaintiff, Monika Starke. The judge said their testimony might cause “unfair prejudice and confusion of the issues.”

The EEOC planned to introduce the witnesses, who also claim they complained about sexual harassment by male trainers, at Starke’s trial in an effort to show the trucking company failed to provide a workplace free of sexual harassment.

According to court documents filed on Feb. 11, CRST will be allowed to try and recoup the estimated $12 million it spent defending the company in the EEOC’s class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 270 female drivers who complained they were sexually harassed by male trainers filed back in 2007. Starke was the lone plaintiff remaining in the EEOC’s class-action lawsuit.

The EEOC’s lawsuit was largely dismissed in May 2012, after the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Eighth Circuit ruled the agency must investigate each driver’s claim and seek a process to resolve each dispute before a class-action lawsuit could be filed.

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