SAN FRANCISCO — A female truck driver who accused CRST International of retaliation and a coworker of sexual harassment won an appeal last month after a ruling by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Robin Anderson filed the suit against CRST and driver Eric Vegtel, claiming the employer failed to look into sexual harassment allegations and did not assign her new routes after she made the complaint.
According to court documents, when the two drivers had to share a hotel room together after their truck broke down, Anderson claimed Vegtel took his clothes off and made references to his penis size.
A district court had ruled in the company’s favor, saying CRST had taken appropriate steps to end the harassment claims by giving Anderson some new assignments and preventing Vegtel from working with female drivers.
On March 24, the federal appeals court weighed in and reversed the decision on Anderson’s retaliation allegations of a hostile work environment.
‘’The district court improperly found that the alleged harassment was insufficient as a matter of law to be actionable in the Ninth Circuit," the court said in its opinion. "The court reached this erroneous conclusion largely by misapplying cases which have imposed a higher threshold for harassment that involves only a single, isolated incident rather than the escalating pattern of harassment alleged here. In addition, the court failed to consider the unique circumstances presented by plaintiff’s job as a long-haul trucker teamed with a male harasser. As a result, the lower court’s grant of summary judgment should be reversed as to this ground.’’
Court documents show that Anderson presented evidence that the trucking company never investigated her complaint and never told Vegtel that he would not be allowed to work with female drivers.
Anderson also supplied evidence that CRST did not reassign her to a new truck or routes after she and Vegtel were separated.
"We have held that an employer’s remedy is not effective even though it stops harassment if the remedy targets the victim and puts her in a worse position,” the court said in its ruling.
The court also said that CRST did not provide a legitimate reason to fire Anderson.
“Although CRST argues that Anderson failed to report to work, Anderson insists that after filing her complaint she never received any work assignments, and there is no evidence to suggest that she was obligated to find her own route assignments from CRST,’’ the court said. "If Anderson did not abandon her job, then CRST has failed to proffer a non-retaliatory reason for her termination.”