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Federal watchdog sues BNSF over alleged sexual harassment

EEOC lawsuit seeks monetary relief and an order preventing future harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of female employees alleging a sexually hostile work environment at BNSF’s rail yard in Alliance, Nebraska.

The employees were subjected to an almost daily barrage of harassing conduct and comments from male co-workers and supervisors over many years, according to the lawsuit and EEOC. When the employees complained about sexual and derogatory comments, as well as slurs, graffiti, and sexually suggestive and nude photos of women, supervisors allegedly brushed off the incidents.

The suit also alleges that BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK.B) headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, failed to take appropriate action. 

These actions violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, EEOC said. The EEOC is seeking monetary relief for the women as well as an order prohibiting future harassment.

“There is still work to be done to ensure employees in all workplaces are able to do their jobs without the humiliation, stress, and fear caused by illegal sexual harassment,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “This type of conduct is unlawful in every industry and workplace, whether it’s an office or a store or a railyard.

In response to the lawsuit, BNSF said in a statement: “BNSF only recently received notice that the complaint had been filed and is still in the process of reviewing the allegations contained within it. BNSF takes its obligations to provide a workplace that is free of sexual harassment very seriously. The company’s efforts in that regard include regular training and unequivocal conduct expectations for all employees, multiple avenues for employees to use to report inappropriate conduct, and prompt action to prevent, address, and remedy any alleged inappropriate conduct.”

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.