Articles Tagged with sexual harassment

Riverside, California, is home to the West Coast terminal of trucking company CRST, located just off Interstate 215, where a woman named Cathy Sellars has filed a lawsuit against CRST for sexual harassment. Over the last 20 years, hundreds of women have brought gender discrimination lawsuits against the trucking industry. It is reported by the EEOC, that an average of one of six of those claims involved race-based harassment.

The trucking incident is still currently 95% male. The few women in the industry allegedly suffered from everyday harassment, from catcalling to rape. Sellars reportedly suffered instances of sexual harassment, assault, and intimidation from her trainer during her first few weeks as a truck driver for CRST. She says she reported the incidences of harassment with human resources for CRST on the phone, and called her trainer’s dispatcher, but failed to get the help she needed.  She also says she would be catcalled at the truck stop, with the on-duty terminal manager at Riverside ignoring the behavior of male drivers.

Catcalling and Sexual Harassment: Free Speech, or a Crime?

While it is obvious that sexual assault (grabbing, flashing) is a serious crime, most states vary on public comments and gestures. Some have considered catcalling protected under the first amendment if it does not arise to a true threat. Simply put, it is not a crime to be a rude person.  In other states however, behavior like catcalling is illegal under the broad legal definition of “lewd conduct.” In California, catcalling and verbal sexual harassment can still be considered a crime by way of different laws. The state has more protective laws against gender-based harassment, and currently has six laws that protect against verbal harassment:

  1. Disorderly conduct- this includes explicit sexual comments or solicitations or obscene gestures. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 647.
  2. Any harassment at adult education schools– including loitering or catcalling on campus. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 647(b).
  3. Harassment on public transportationSee CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 640.
  4. Vagrancy near a school- including loitering near campus. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 653(b).
  5. Public nuisance- this includes those who routinely harass passerbys at the same street corner. See CA Code, Title 10, §370-372.
  6. Unlawful assembly- California law defines this as whenever two or more persons assemble together for an unlawful or lawful act, in a boisterous or tumultuous manner.  See CA Code, Title 11, §407-409.

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In another bizarre legal ruling from a right-leaning state, a Georgia Court of Appeals ruled the state’s invasion of privacy laws does not prohibit taking a photo up a woman’s skirt (an “upskirt photo”) unless she is “behind closed doors,” with an expectation of privacy, like in a bathroom stall or dressing room. Otherwise, a secret photo taken without the permission of the woman in a public place like a supermarket or sidewalk is fair game.

In a 6-3 opinion, judges ruled in the recent case of Brandon Lee Gary, a Publix store clerk who was accused of taking upskirt photos of a female shopper, that criminal “invasion of privacy” laws only protect victims if the conduct takes place somewhere that is not “visible to the public.”  The problem, the judges note, lays in the language of the law, and that it is up to the state legislature to fix it in the next legislative session. However, the next session will not occur until Spring 2017.

The state of Georgia is not alone. Dozens of states do not have specific laws against sexual harassers taking upskirt photos of women in public. For example, a Washington, D.C. judge ruled in 2014 that a woman does not have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” if she were photographed “clothed and positioned in a public space, even if the photographs in question are incredibly invasive and demeaning.” Often, this kind of behavior is not considered illegal due to technicalities of the wording of laws that have not kept up with technology.