Amtrak Sued for Racism, Sexual Harassment, Hostile Work Environment and Retaliation

Amtrak is being sued by a longtime employee because she faced pervasive sexual harassment and racial discrimination, made futile complaints to the proper authorities, was retaliated against and eventually fired.

Dawn Garner, an African-American female, worked for Amtrak as a conductor from 1999 until June 2017 when she was terminated, according to the complaint.

As soon as she was hired, Garner began to experience unwanted and offensive sexual harassment and racial discrimination from both co-workers and passengers. Male co-workers made derogatory and inappropriate comments pertaining to Garner’s body.

Garner claims that a supervisor asked her out to lunch and, after she declined, told her “she did not pass an aptitude test and that the results would have been different if she . . . would have gone to lunch with him.”

Garner was subjected to unwanted physical touching by passengers, including being poked in the waist, having her breasts grabbed from behind while she was making an announcement, and being kissed. She also claims she was called derogatory names like “Black bitch,” “asshole,” “cunt,” and “hoe.”

Garner also claims that male Amtrak employees often solicited both female passengers and co-workers for sex. One male co-worker told her that he allowed a passenger who could not afford the fare onto the train so that she could perform a sexual act.

Another one of Garner’s male co-workers “slapped [her] butt so hard that her knees buckled in presence of other . . . employees.” According to the complaint, she was also subjected to racially charged comments from co-workers, including the use of the word “nigger.”

Garner claims that throughout her employment she “made numerous complaints regarding the severe or pervasive sexual harassment and hostile work environment.” When she complained about the use of racially derogative terms made by a co-worker she as told to “ignore him.”

In March 2016 Garner made a formal complaint to Amtrak’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) compliance office. Almost immediately afterwards Garner was told that she was being investigated for assisting a disabled passenger, which allegedly delayed a train. Garner claims that she was required to do this by law and that a passenger had sent a letter to Amtrak praising her actions, which it declined to share with her.

For the next year, until her termination, Garner received several “formal and informal employee counseling/‘write-ups.’”  She claims she had never received these before and they only started “after she began reporting the severe and pervasive sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and race discrimination directed at her and freely occurring in the workplace.”

Garner was fired in June 2016, despite having “performed all her job duties/responsibilities in an outstanding manner and there was no legitimate non-discriminatory/non-retaliatory reason for [Amtrak’s] unlawful treatment of [her],” the complaint states.

Garner is represented by Elizabeth Chavez of Geneva, Illinois who filed the case in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

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