By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer
A female driver’s six-year court battle may be finally over. A jury awarded her more than $1.17 million in a sexual harassment case against her former male trainer and CRST Expedited of Cedar Rapids, IA.
The jury assessed punitive damages against both the trainer and CRST.
Elizabeth Riles, a partner with the law firm Bohbot & Riles in Oakland, CA, told Land Line on Friday, May 13, that her client, Karen Shank, was a trainee for CRST in 2005 when she was assigned John Wilson as her trainer.
Riles said Shank completed her driver training, but quit a day after she was assigned a male co-driver. She said Shank then filed a lawsuit in 2006 after her complaints about her trainer’s sexual comments and unwanted touching weren’t addressed by the company.
“This was definitely a long haul for our client because she pretty much left the industry after working for CRST,” Riles said. “It’s been a long six years of litigating and fighting, but at the end of the day, the jury believed our client. They believed that CRST didn’t do what they needed to do to prevent harassment in the workplace, and that they certainly didn’t do what they needed to do to protect our client from it.”
Riles said some jurors they spoke to after the 24-day trial ended in early May said they found flaws with CRST’s “enforcement and investigation practices on how they dealt with her client’s complaints.”
Riles said Shank’s former trainer, Wilson, wasn’t fired by the company after being notified of her complaints alleging sexual harassment. Instead, he left the company voluntarily a while later to join another trucking company. The jury did find punitive damages against Wilson for $3,500 in the action.
“When you step onto the truck as a trainee or as a new team driver, for the most part you are getting on the truck with a complete stranger,” Riles said. “You are expected to have real trust with that other person, and you are putting your life into their hands. But sometimes that trust is broken, and companies must pay attention to these types of concerns or complaints.”
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