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EEOC mess up?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based CRST Van Expedited Inc., on behalf of dozens of women who described an ordeal of unwanted and aggressive sexual conduct from male workers of the company.

The case began in December 2005 when driver Monika Starke, of Azle, Texas, alleged she was paired with a driver who constantly made crude sexual remarks and advances. After she escaped his truck, she said, she was paired with another driver who demanded sex in exchange for a passing grade. Another woman said her trainer asked for oral sex every morning and told her if she slept with him she’d certainly pass. Another testified that her trainer put on pornographic movies daily and told her he wanted her to perform similar acts. “And he never let me go a day without telling me that he controlled me passing or failing.”

The lawsuit filed by the EEOC has backfired and put the agency’s tactics and procedures on trial instead of leading to a judgment for those harmed by the alleged sexual harassment.

The Court’s February ruling requires the EEOC to set a new standard for workplace class-action lawsuits in the federal court district that includes Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas. Before filing a lawsuit on behalf of employees alleging similar discrimination, the agency will first have to investigate the merits of every worker’s claim and attempt to reach settlements.

“It’s incredibly significant,” said Chicago lawyer Gerald Maatman Jr., who represents companies sued by the EEOC. “It is a signal by the federal courts that the tactics the EEOC has been using over the last several years may be improper.”

If the agency doesn’t follow the Court’s ruling, the EEOC risks having the case dismissed, which means that the dozens of women alleging sexual harassment may receive no compensation for lost wages or emotional distress because of judicial criticism of the agency’s investigation.

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