Female Truck Driver Forced to Quit Job at North Dakota Company Because of Physical and Verbal Sexual Abuse, Federal Agency Charges
MINNEAPOLIS - A North Dakota civil construction company operating in Minot, N.D. violated civil rights law by subjecting an employee to a hostile work environment based on her sex and by subjecting her to work conditions that were so intolerable she was forced to resign, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed in North Dakota today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Jennifer Gerard worked for Keller Paving and Landscaping, Inc. in Minot from June to October 2013 as a truck driver. During Gerard's employment, she was subjected to sexual harassment by several male coworkers. The harassment included male coworkers telling her she did not belong at the worksite, but should be at home in the kitchen taking care of her children. One male coworker asked her to perform oral sex on him. On another occasion, a male coworker touched her shoulder and her leg.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Gerard complained to company owners and the site manager about the harassment, but the harassment continued and one of the owners suggested that she quit. As a result, Gerard felt she had no choice but to resign, resulting in her constructive discharge.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on sex. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Keller Paving and Landscaping, Inc.; Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00092 (DLH-CSM)), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.
"No employee should ever be forced to work in an environment where she is subjected to unwanted sexual touching and verbal abuse," said Julianne Bowman, director of the EEOC's Chicago District. "That goes for everyone in every kind of job - including woman truck drivers. Such behavior is not only uncivilized, it's unlawful."
EEOC Regional Attorney Greg Gochanour added, "In this instance, Ms. Gerard did exactly what she should have done by complaining to the owners and site manager. But the company failed to take any appropriate action to end the harassment, and instead forced her to resign. This is all illegal misconduct, and the EEOC is here to fight it."
The EEOC's legal team in its Minneapolis Area Office will conduct the litigation under the management of the agency's Chicago District Office. That office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.