Sexual harassment does occur in the workplace. The Trucking Industry is no exception. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as: A form of sexual harassment that violates Title V11 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct affects an individual’s employment, and unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Women drivers are a minority in the trucking industry although their numbers are increasing. Currently, approximately 5% of truck drivers are women. Women are more vulnerable to sexual harassment than their male counterparts. Some situations are easier to control than others. For example, if you are in a trucker lounge and receive unwanted sexual advances you can just send the person away. Similarly, if there is foul language in the restaurant, TV lounge or any other public place, you can just leave upon the completion of your business.
However, sexual harassment on the job is more complicated. Although men are sometimes victims of sexual harassment, women are the primary victims. New drivers are often paired with trainers. There are not enough female trainers available to train female drivers, so most women drivers are paired with men. Furthermore, employers cannot limit employment opportunities to their employees based on their gender.
Title V11 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes the following unlawful:
It unlawful for an employer to limit, segregate or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
There are situations where sexual harassment occurs. Females who are paired with trainers who sexually harass them are going to be very unhappy. This is an extremely bad situation because the female driver may be on the road with this trainer for two consecutive weeks on her first trip out. They will be together 24 hours per day. The mere fact of being in such close quarters with a trainer who is making inappropriate comments or suggestions to the female driver is an uncomfortable situation to say the least.
Sexual harassment can be in different forms, but the conduct of the harasser must be either severe or it must be pervasive to be sexual harassment. A single act such as someone asking for a date or making a sexual comment may not be severe. However, if these unwanted advances continue, they may be severe. However, a single incident of rape or attempted rape is sexual harassment, and is also a criminal offense. Types of sexual harassment include:
Verbal sexual harassment: This can be someone making sexual comments or jokes about a person’s clothes or body. It can also include sexual innuendoes, requesting sexual favors, spreading rumors about a person’s sex life, etc.
Physical sexual harassment: This can be any inappropriate touching of a person’s body. Examples include unwanted kissing, hugging, patting, assault or impeding or blocking movement.
Nonverbal sexual harassment: There are different situations which can be considered nonverbal sexual harassment. Examples include incidents in which someone is looking up and down a person’s body, making facial expressions of a sexual nature, etc. This can also include sending emails or pictures of a sexual nature.
Employees who experience harassment should immediately report it. To protect yourself, clearly say “NO” to any offensive behavior. Write down any incident and keep a paper trail. When you report incidents to your superiors, do so in writing.
Employers value their workers and want them to have safe working conditions. Furthermore, under Title V11, employers must take reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment. Also, they must take reasonable care to promptly correct sexual harassment that has occurred.
To protect yourself, clearly say “NO” to any offensive behavior. Write down any incident and keep a paper trail. When you report incidents to your superiors, do so in writing. Follow your company’s internal grievance procedure. If you belong to a union you may want to file a formal sexual harassment complaint through the union. If you fail to get satisfactory results, you may seek outside help through other government agencies or your attorney.