North Dakota Construction Company Forced Female Truck Driver to Quit to Escape Abusive Workplace, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS - A North Dakota civil construction company operating in Minot, N.D., will pay $59,000 to settle a sexual harassment and constructive discharge lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC's lawsuit charged that Keller Paving and Landscaping, Inc., violated federal law when it subjected a female employee to a hostile work environment based on her sex and to work conditions that were so intolerable she was forced to resign.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Jennifer Gerard worked for Keller 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 the 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, the EEOC said. On one occasion, a male coworker touched her shoulder and her leg. According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Gerard complained to the company's owners and site manager, but the harassment continued. The work conditions were so intolerable that Gerard was finally forced to quit her job.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment. 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.
U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hoveland signed the order entering the consent decree on June 4, 2018. The decree provides for $59,000 in monetary relief to Gerard. It also requires Keller to revise its policies in its employee handbook to outline a complaint procedure for complaining about sexual harassment.
The decree also requires the company to train its management personnel on Title VII, including its prohibitions against sexual harassment. Further, the decree requires Keller to train its non-management employees on their rights under Title VII, including their right to file discrimination charges with the EEOC. Finally, the company must report complaints of sexual harassment to the EEOC during the decree's two-year term.
"Too many women in non-traditional jobs are forced to endure this sort of abuse simply because of their gender," said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC's Chicago District. "We are pleased with this settlement, which will monitor the company's practices on sexual harassment, and the EEOC will continue to combat this kind of misconduct anywhere and everywhere we find it."
Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District, said, "Maddeningly, women continue to face sexual harassment at their jobs, and employers must recognize the importance of acting promptly to address complaints about this inexcusable behavior. The EEOC remains committed to eliminating harassment and discrimination from the American workplace."
The EEOC was represented in the case by Senior Trial Attorney Tina Burnside in the EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office.
The EEOC's Chicago District 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.