Lawsuit alleges company president encouraged flirting, sex with customers

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 8/21/2012

A former dispatcher and freight manager of a California-based trucking company and brokerage has filed a lawsuit against her former employer. She alleged she was fired after refusing to flirt, send suggestive emails and photos, and have sex with customers to gain a “business advantage.”

In the lawsuit filed on July 25 in the Superior Court of the State of California in Fresno, Julie Brannum alleges she was fired by Michelle Gust, president of California Refrigerated Express Inc., and Gust Express Inc. of Clovis, CA, after she complained about the company’s policies.

She also alleges that she was retaliated against by Gust, who gave “business leads” to other female employees, who would “participate in the sexual activities that were encouraged by (Gust).”

According to the lawsuit, Gust allegedly paid for the accommodations for sexual encounters between dispatchers and freight managers and customers of California Refrigerated Express. The lawsuit also alleges that Gust “encouraged body enhancements, and CRE or Gust offered to pay for, or did pay for, breast enhancements.”

In an email to Land Line on Tuesday, Aug. 21, Gust stated that “the allegations are false and I am confident this will be dismissed.”

Brannum alleges hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful termination, unfair business practices and labor code violations in the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Brannum alleges she is owed more than $68,000 in unpaid overtime because she was required to be “on call” on weekends.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website, Gust Express Inc’s property broker authority was granted in October 2007, less than one month after the authority of another brokerage she owned was involuntarily revoked in September 2007.

The agency granted California Refrigerated Express’ contract carrier authority status in September 2007. Another of her companies, doing business as Kelgar Trucking of Clovis, CA, had its contract carrier authority revoked in June 2008, according to the agency’s website.

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