THE CASE OF CROUCH V. RIFLE COAL CO., LLC
Last week we began a series of articles that will provide you with real world examples of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace. In our last article, we discussed the case of West v. Tyson Foods, Inc., in which a woman experienced cat-calls, whistling, and inappropriate touching in the few short weeks in which she was employed with Tyson Foods. This week we’ll be talking about a woman named Sandra who was working as a roadside flagger for a construction company. This story comes from the case of Crouch v. Rifle Coal Co., LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106167 (E.D. Ky. 2009) (you can read the full opinion here), and the allegations from that case are as follows:
Sandra worked under a foreman named Collins, directing traffic at a road construction project in Fleming County, Kentucky operated by Rifle Coal Company. Throughout the course of the project, Collins began to exhibit severely inappropriate behavior towards Sandra and other female employees of the company. His behavior started off as fairly innocuous, by asking Sandra, who was married, out on dates. Sandra frequently rebuffed his offers, and made clear that she was not interested in dating Collins, who was also married.
Following these incidents, Collins’ conduct grew much more aggressive and intimidating. He started calling Sandra “Elk Ass” in front of her co-workers, and even used the term when calling her on the CB radio. He also began to make graphic sexual statements and requests to Sandra. The following section is part of an actual court document recounting the statements Collins made to Sandra:
Collins made many lewd, sexual statements to [Sandra], including: “I want to f***” “Is your p***y bald or hairy?” and “I don’t get p***y at home anymore. I used to get it all the time. Will you give me p***y?”
Collins would also make thinly veiled efforts to touch Sandra’s body. While working, he would often act as if he was reaching around her, or try to walk by her in a narrowly enclosed area, and would brush his hand against her breasts or rub his crotch against her buttocks. On other occasions, Collins would be much more brash, going so far as to cup Sandra’s breasts with his hand.
Through out all of these situations, Sandra would request to Collins to stop his behavior. These requests were consistently ignored.
Sandra filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which investigated the situation and found that she had been a victim of sexual harassment. The EEOC issued Sandra a Right to Sue letter, and she filed a Complaint in Federal District Court alleging a hostile work environment on the basis of sex under Title VII.
Rifle Coal Company filed a motion for Summary Judgment once the case was under way, a procedural maneuver that, if successful, could have resulted in Sandra’s case being dismissed. The District Court Judge examined the facts outlined above, and found that they more than established a prima facie claim for hostile work environment. As a result, Rifle Coal Company’s motion was dismissed, and Sandra’s claim was permitted to proceed to the trial stage.
The behavior that Sandra was subjected to seems fairly incredible, and we apologize for the somewhat graphic nature of the content of this article, but these facts reflect the reality of what sexual harassment looks like in the workplace. We here at Abney & McCarty are often brought stories very similar to Sandra’s by our own clients, which often contain employer and co-worker behavior much worse than that detailed above.
While Sandra’s story shows what can occur in job environments that allow employee harassment to go unfettered, it also demonstrates that legal action is available, and often successful, to those that have been subjected to such harassment. If you feel that you’ve experienced a situation similar to Sandra’s, you should seek legal counsel immediately, and learn what options are available to you.