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:
- Disorderly conduct- this includes explicit sexual comments or solicitations or obscene gestures. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 647.
- Any harassment at adult education schools– including loitering or catcalling on campus. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 647(b).
- Harassment on public transportation– See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 640.
- Vagrancy near a school- including loitering near campus. See CA Code, Title 15, Chap. 2 § 653(b).
- Public nuisance- this includes those who routinely harass passerbys at the same street corner. See CA Code, Title 10, §370-372.
- 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.