- Amtrak must face some of the bias claims brought by a former conductor who alleged that she was subjected to misconduct for about 18 years, a federal district court judge determined (Garner v. National Railway Corp. (dba Amtrak), No. 18-cv-3789 (N.D. Ill., Feb. 1, 2019)).
- Dawn Garner, an African-American woman, alleged in a lawsuit that she endured sexual harassment, race discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws. From 1999 until her termination in 2017, Garner said she was subjected to unwelcome and offensive sexual harassment, including harassment from an HR rep who made sexually suggestive comments to her from 2000 through 2016. Garner said she complained about the conduct to about 14 people but "the defendant failed to remediate, stop, prevent, or otherwise address the ongoing discrimination and harassment."
- Amtrak asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that many of Garner's allegations were time-barred. The judge agreed in part, but refused to dismiss her hostile work environment claims, citing the continuing violation doctrine. The theory allows a Title VII plaintiff to recover for otherwise time-barred conduct that is part of a single, ongoing unlawful employment practice if at least one related act occurs during the limitations period, the court said. Garner sufficiently alleged a pattern of harassment and unjustified discipline to survive a motion to dismiss, the court said.
Garner shows that time is not always a defense to bias claims.
Front-line managers and supervisors are responsible for a large number of discrimination and retaliation violations, experts continue to tell stakeholders. Compliance training is a good first step, and it should be ongoing and ingrained in company culture, experts have told HR Dive. Training still has to happen within a work culture that supports the messaging to succeed.
Some employers are going beyond compliance training and working to address implicit biases. Some research suggests unconscious bias training can be successful, especially if it's offered in a non-judgmental way: When employees accept that everyone has biases, they can be more willing to examine their own.
The instant case also illustrates the importance of a robust reporting system. Large employers also can put into place multiple avenues for reporting and a system of checks and balances for handling discrimination and harassment claims.