Trucking Company Fired Employee Who Opposed Sexual Remarks, Including Over Workplace Intercom, Federal Agency Charges
DES MOINES, Iowa - Panama Transfer, Inc., a multi-state trucking company headquartered in Panama, Iowa, violated federal law by allowing a female dock worker to be sexually harassed and then firing her for resisting that harassment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to John Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago District, which includes Iowa, the agency's investigation revealed that Susan Devries, who worked as a third-shift dock worker at Panama Transfer's Wellsburg, Iowa, terminal from April 11, 2011, to May 8, 2012, was regularly subjected to sexual harassment by one of her supervisors. The EEOC said the supervisor repeatedly made overtures to her as well as sexual remarks and innuendos, including over the workplace intercom for her co-workers to hear as well. After Devries objected to the harassment, the EEOC said, the company fired her rather than address the illegal treatment.
"Women have the same right as men to earn a living in an environment free from sexual harassment," said Rowe, who supervised the agency's investigation. "Employers who don't protect their workers' rights need to know that the federal government will enforce our national policy against sexual abuse in the workplace."
Panama Transfer's alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment and retaliation for complaining about it. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages for Devries, an order barring future discrimination and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. Panama Transfer, Inc. (Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-00009-JEG-CFB), was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Des Moines and assigned to U.S. District Judge James E. Gritzner.
EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson said, "Despite the focus on sexual harassment over the past 20 years, it continues to be an area which demands the EEOC's attention. Sexual harassment appears to be an ongoing problem where women are working in male-dominated environments, and we are determined to make employers comply with the law."
"We are focused on putting an end to retaliation," Hendrickson added. "Federal law guarantees everyone the right to complain when she believes job discrimination has occurred. The EEOC will support employees in exercising the rights that Congress has guaranteed them."
According to its website, Panama Transfer, which is family-owned, operates truck terminals in Panama, Wellsburg, Des Moines and Richland, Iowa. It also maintains terminals in Chicago and Nashville, Ill.; Lawrence, Kan.; Trimont, St. Cloud and Duluth, Minn.; Camdenton, Mo.; Omaha and Humboldt, Neb.; Fargo, N.D.; Sioux Falls, S.D.; and Milwaukee, Hudson and La Crosse, Wis.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The case will be litigated by attorneys in the Milwaukee Area Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the agency is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.