A federal appeals court has ruled against CRST International in a case regarding a female truck operator and her allegations against the company that it allowed a hostile work environment to continue without properly addressing it and then stopped assigning her loads out of retaliation.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’s March 24 ruling reverses a lower court ruling made in 2015 in favor of CRST. It returns both of the trucker’s claims to the lower court for further proceedings.
CRST did not respond to request for comment on the ruling.
The Iowa-based CRST fired Robin Anderson after she complained Eric Vegtel — Anderson’s co-driver and also a defendant in the lawsuit — sexually harassed her. Anderson said soon after being hired, he persisted in lewd, unwelcome behavior, including requesting sex from her. At one point, when their truck broke down, they shared a motel room, where she awoke to see him sitting naked on his bed.
The previous ruling concluded his behavior was not insufficiently severe or pervasive to merit claims harassment or a hostile work environment. Additionally, it determined CRST effectively handled the problem.
However, the 9th Circuit ruled otherwise. “Anderson had presented sufficient evidence to create a material dispute as to whether CRST provided an effective remedy,” the appellate judges concluded. The higher court added that “a reasonable woman in Anderson’s position would have perceived the environment to be hostile.”
Anderson said she was not aware of any investigation into her claims after they were made to CRST, nor was she aware of any remedies offered by the carrier.
In a deposition, Vegtel said he didn’t know if it the allegations were investigated nor that the company had flagged him for no female co-drivers.
Anderson said they stopped assigning her work, but the carrier says she stopped contacting them and they were unable to reach her. The 9th Circuit panel sided with the driver because a “reasonable jury could conclude CRST actually fired Anderson in retaliation.”
The 9th Circuit is just a step below the U.S. Supreme Court.