Trucking Co. Accused of Arranging|Sexual Liaisons to Gain an Edge

     FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – A trucking company urged its female dispatchers and freight managers to snake a competitive advantage by having sex with clients, a former employee claims in court.
     Gust Express owner Michelle Gust encouraged female dispatchers and freight managers to “sexually flirt with customers to gain a business advantage,” according to the complaint in Fresno County Superior Court.
     Julie Brannum said she endured the unwelcome orders while working for Gust as a freight manager and dispatcher.
     The complaint against Gust, Gust Express and its subsidiary, California Refrigerated Express (CRE), alleges hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful termination, unfair business practices and labor code violations.
     “CRE encouraged the transmission of emails and texts to customers consisting of sexually suggestive language and photographs of their nude and partially nude bodies, a practice in which Gust participated personally,” Brannum said. “CRE, through its owner and corporate president Gust, encouraged body enhancement and CRE or Gust offered to pay for, and did pay for, breast enhancements. Defendants encouraged the use of sexual encounters between customers of CRE and the dispatchers and freight managers, and paid for accommodations at which customers and CRE employees met for sexual encounters, all for the purpose of gaining a business advantage.”
     Brannum said she complained about the sexually charged work environment, and told Gust she would not participate in the shenanigans. Gust responded by segregating Brannum and retaliating against her, according to the complaint.
     “Plaintiff also was not provided business leads as she had been, but rather the leads were given to those female employees who would, in fact, participate in the sexual activities that were encouraged by defendants,” Brannum said.
     “After plaintiff registered the above-mentioned complaints, Gust contacted shippers behind the backs of [Brannum’s customers] and ‘back-doored,’ thereby taking away from plaintiff and her customers income that would have otherwise been due her, and created conflict between plaintiff and her customers, all to the damage of plaintiff and for the economic benefit of defendants,” Brannum added.
     Gust’s actions humiliated, embarrassed and discomforted Brannum, eventually costing the woman her job, according to the complaint.
     “After plaintiff complained to the defendants, the defendants acted to isolate plaintiff from her fellow employees, to make fun of her and to redirect business and income from plaintiff to other employees who were willing to participate in the above-mentioned activities,” Brannum said. “Ultimately, plaintiff was damaged in her income until such time as she was contacted by defendants and told ‘Your services are no longer needed.'”
     Brannum also said that Gust forced her to work 783 hours of overtime and expected her to be “on call” on weekends. She estimates that Gust’s companies owe her more than $68,000 in unpaid overtime during the course of her four-year employment at CRE.
     Gust furthermore docked Brannum’s pay for unprofitable hauls she arranged – outside of her control – to the tune of $2,240, according to the complaint.
     Brannum seeks compensatory and punitive damages. She is represented by Gregory Myers of Fresno, Calif.

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