Nichols v. Tri-National Logistics, Inc.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
809 F.3d 981 (2016)
Rebecca Nichols (plaintiff) worked as a semitruck driver for Tri-National Logistics, Incorporated and RMR Driver Services, jointly referred to as TNI (TNI) (defendants). Nichols was assigned James Paris as a driving partner because she was not allowed to drive alone due to past damage-causing incidents. Paris propositioned Nichols to enter a romantic relationship on their first trip. Nichols declined. She did not report the proposition to TNI. Nichols and Paris were scheduled to drive together on a multi-day trip. Paris frequently exposed himself to Nichols from the back of the cab while she was driving. His actions upset her, and she told him not to act like that. Nichols alleged that she immediately reported Paris’s misconduct to Melissa Foust, a safety-department employee. Nichols reported Paris’s sexual harassment to Foust five times during the six-day trip. She also reported Paris’s conduct to Bob Oliver, a TNI dispatcher. Oliver suggested Nichols endure the harassment until the trip was complete. When the trip ended, Nichols and Paris were subject to a mandatory 34-hour rest period. Nichols went with Paris to his home in Pharr, Texas, because no other drivers were available until after the rest period. Nichols requested permission to take the truck to another location. She was denied. Nichols slept in the truck that night. Nichols asked Paris to take her to a motel the next day. Paris asked her for sex and offered to forgive a debt that she owed him. Nichols refused. Paris became mad, verbally abusive, and took Nichols’s keys and cell phone. Paris eventually took Nichols to a motel that night. Paris drove Nichols to meet with another truck driver the next day. Nichols reported to TNI that Paris’s conduct made her feel abused, scared, and degraded. A psychiatrist diagnosed Nichols with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder caused by Paris’s harassment. TNI terminated Nichols several weeks after the trip with Paris, citing safety violations reported by her new driving partner. Nichols filed suit against TNI, claiming sex discrimination and retaliatory termination. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of TNI. Nichols appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Murphy, J.)
Dissent (Smith, J.)
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