Jenner & Block

Iowa Court Rules in Favor of Client CRST in Harassment, Discharge Dispute

Jenner & Block scored a victory for CRST when the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa held that the trucking company responded adequately to complaints from a trio of female truckers.  In Sellars v. CRST Expedited Inc., the plaintiffs claimed that the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act by subjecting them to systemic gender discrimination and retaliated against them for reporting multiple incidents of alleged sexual harassment.

But on July 15, 2019, Judge Leonard T. Strand granted the company’s motion for summary judgment on the women’s hostile work environment claims. 

The judge said for the court that CRST addressed each complaint by designating the individual male drivers as “male only,” ensuring they wouldn’t co-drive with women.  The women, the judge found, did not allege that they were harassed by a co-driver after complaining about him to CRST.  It is “undisputed,” he said, that CRST responded to the women’s harassment complaints by taking them away from the drivers who allegedly harassed them and never pairing them again.

The women also made constructive discharge claims.  But those claims failed because, the judge said, the women failed to produce evidence that the company purposefully created the intolerable conditions in which they worked.

The case started as a class action; in 2017, Judge Strand certified classes alleging hostile work environment and retaliation against CRST.  In January, however, the judge granted CRST’s request to decertify the hostile work environment class and awarded it summary judgment on the class retaliation claim.  At that time, the judge found that the women lacked common evidence relating to harassment they said they endured.  That left only the individual claims of the three women. 

News of the opinion was covered in Bloomberg Law (subscription required) and Law360.

Serving as co-counsel in the case, the firm team included Partners Jessica Ring Amunson, James T. Malysiak and John H. Mathias, Jr.  Partner Michael T. Brody and Associate Lauren J. Hartz also contributed significantly to the victory.