US judge orders EEOC to pay $4.7M legal bill

IOWA CITY – A judge has ordered the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay an Iowa trucking company $4.7 million in legal costs for bringing what she called dozens of “unreasonable or groundless” claims of sexual harassment during a lawsuit that’s lasted six years.

U.S. District Judge Linda Reade’s judgment for CRST Van Expedited, entered last week, is believed to be the largest-ever fee sanction against the EEOC, according to employment attorneys and the agency itself.

“We’re deeply disappointed in the decision and we’re definitely considering next steps, which may include appealing,” EEOC spokeswoman Christine Nazer said Tuesday. She added, “We’ve got folks who have been here a long time and nobody can recall fees higher than this.”

The case began with a 2005 complaint from Monika Starke, an Azle, Texas, driver who alleged that she was paired with a male colleague who constantly made crude sexual remarks and advances.