CRST settles landmark EEOC case

In a landmark Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) case, Cedar Rapids-based CRST Van Expedited, Inc., agreed pay $50,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit to avoid the expense of a costly trial.

The trucking company agreed Feb. 7 to the token payment to Monika Starke to avoid the cost of defending itself against Starke’s allegations that CRST was too slow to respond to her sexual harassment claims against a male driver trainer, according to an ABC News report.

The case began with a 2005 complaint from Starke, an Azle, TX, driver who alleged that she was paired with a male colleague who constantly made crude sexual remarks and advances toward her. The company denied her claims.

After failing to reach settlement in that case, the EEOC filed a class-action lawsuit in 2007 on behalf of 270 female CRST drivers. For various legal reasons, all the claims except Starke’s were ultimately dismissed.

CRST CEO David Rusch said Monday he believes the company would have prevailed at trial, but agreed to the settlement to avoid spending up to $1 million defending itself. He said the company has already spent more than $12 million on attorneys, and hopes a judge will order the commission to pay some of those costs.

Rusch said the EEOC filed a lawsuit before interviewing all the women who it alleged were victims. He said sexual harassment did happen at CRST, but company officials had procedures for reporting and preventing it.

“Somebody was claiming that we tolerate harassment, which is absolutely erroneous, absolutely a witch hunt, and that’s why we took the aggressive posture that we did,” he said.

When federal judges drastically narrowed the scope of the lawsuit it delivered a major blow to the government’s ability to file large workplace discrimination lawsuits in several states.

CRST will also be allowed to try to recoup $12 million the company spent fighting the class action case.

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