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Immediate harassment danger? Protect victims

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

Sexual harassment is always a serious issue that warrants fast corrective action. Make sure, however, that your response is appropriate for the situation.

In most cases, it’s appropriate to simply separate the alleged harasser and victim while you investigate. But more immediate help may be in order if the harasser and the victim are traveling together or isolated.

Recent case: The EEOC brought suit against CRST, a major transportation company, after a female driver complained about sexual harassment. The investigation expanded as more alleged victims were identified.

The female drivers had all been assigned to male drivers during a training period and, later, during routine jobs. Each truck had two drivers so one could sleep while the other drove. The idea was that this increased efficiency and reduced wasted time on the road.

The problem was that some of the male drivers acted boorishly and others were outright hostile. Male drivers urinated into bottles and de­­­­manded their driving partners clean up the mess, sometimes calling the women their “bitch.” Other male drivers groped their partners, crawled into the cab in just their underwear. Sexual solicitation was common.

During their classroom training, everyone received the company’s sexual harassment policy and in­structions on how to report problems. The EEOC identified 11 women who might be potential harassment victims; they had called or otherwise reported problems they had experienced.

In response, CRST took immediate action. It recalled the trucks from the road and provided a hotel room for the alleged victims. They never had to work with the offensive drivers again and re­­ported that they had no further problems.

The court dismissed the EEOC’s lawsuit involving those women. It reasoned that the company acted immediately and appropriately by getting the women to a safe place. (EEOC v. CRST, No. 09-3764, 8th Cir., 2012)

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