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EEOC asks court to reconsider hostile work environment class action ruling

EEOC asks court to reconsider hostile work environment class action ruling

ST. LOUIS—The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is asking the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a February ruling in which an appellate panel upheld dismissal of a putative class action hostile work environment lawsuit it had filed against a trucking company.

In its closely watched ruling Feb. 22 in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission et al. vs. CRST Van Expedited Inc., a divided three-judge panel essentially upheld a district court ruling that dismissed the EEOC's lawsuit, in which it had charged that 270 women in CRST's training program had been subjected to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1967.

The lawsuit included allegations of sexual propositioning, sexual assault and rape.

In its 2-1 ruling, the appellate panel said the EEOC must “create a genuine issue of material fact” on the behalf of each female trucker as to whether the harassment impacted her employment.

In appealing the ruling and seeking an en banc hearing before the full court, the EEOC said in its motion Monday, “The panel's requirement that EEOC identify every potential victim before filing suit is unsupported by the language of Title VII and conflicts with the decisions of every other court of appeals that has addressed this question.”

The motion said, “The panel's unprecedented imposition of this new requirement will impede EEOC's ability to enforce Title VII and other civil rights laws in workplaces with the most widespread discrimination.”

The EEOC's motion said it also disagreed with the appellate panel's dismissal of the case on the grounds that CRST's lead drivers, who worked with the trainees and had been accused of creating the hostile work environment, were not supervisors, and therefore CRST is not vicariously liable for any harassment they allegedly perpetrated against the female trainees.

“In rejecting EEOC's claim that CRST is liable for trainer harassment of female trainees during over-the-road training, the panel misapplied the court's supervisor test to the unique circumstances of this case,” said the EEOC's motion.

A CRST spokesman could not be reached for comment.

While the number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC fell 7.7% in fiscal 2010 compared with the previous year, sexual harassment remains a significant problem.

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