Guilty of Discrimination Against Femalesby Jana Ritter - Published: 8/20/2014
A federal judge has ruled that New Prime Inc. (a Missouri-based trucking company) has a pattern of discrimination against its female drivers. Prime is one of the nation's largest refrigerated, flatbed and tanker carriers and has been found guilty of violating federal law by requiring female drivers to be trained only by other female drivers.
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Prime had started the women training policy in 2003 as a result of another lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over sexual harassment of a female driver trainee.In 2011 Prime was again sued by the EEOC over the new training practice policy limiting women's access to jobs or delaying their hiring.Prime stopped the women training policy in 2013 when the company sought to have the case dismissed.
EEOC filed the 2011 lawsuit based on a discrimination charge filed by Deanna Roberts Clouse. The EEOC alleged that Prime's policy of assigning female trainees only to female trainers discriminated against Clouse and all other female applicants for truck driver trainee positions because of their sex. Adding to the problem, was that Prime had very few female trainers, which resulted in female trainees waiting far longer than male trainees, sometimes up to 18 months, and in many cases it ultimately resulted female drivers being denied employment. Male applicants on the other hand, were quickly assigned to male trainers and soon after began driving for the company.
Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of the EEOC's St. Louis District, said, "While Prime would like to claim it was protecting women, its policy denied employment opportunities to them. Women are entirely capable of understanding and assessing the risks of truck driving. But one of those risks should not be sexual harassment. Employers should prevent sexual harassment through training and strict enforcement of effective anti-harassment policies, not by segregating male and female employees."
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Dayna Deck added, "Prime has known its policy was a problem since the EEOC sued another trucking copy in 1997 for the same policy. But Prime continued its discriminatory policy until it suspended the policy in March 2013. As the court said in its ruling, the EEOC has 'clearly provided sufficient evidence to justify a potential award of punitive damages.' We look forward to getting remedies for all the women who have been discriminated against."
Most importantly, the federal judge who ruled in the case said the program violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by having a policy where only men could train men as truck drivers, and only women were allowed to train women. The judge also denied a motion to rule on damages in the case. That ruling will be made later and will also determine for how long a period Prime will have to pay back wages to the plaintiffs; (which is possibly as many as 45 women).