Trucking Giant's Same-Sex Trainer Policy Kept Women Drivers Out of Jobs, Federal Agency Charged
ST. LOUIS - New Prime Trucking, Inc., one of the nation's largest trucking companies, will pay over $3.1 million and will make job offers to women who were victims of the company's unlawful discriminatory hiring policy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. The payments follow an earlier court order finding that the company violated federal law by discriminating against female truck driver applicants when it required that they be trained only by female trainers.
According to the court's prior order, the company, which does business as Prime Inc., violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination when it denied employment opportunities to women through its same-sex trainer policy. Prime adopted its policy in 2004 after it was found in a previous EEOC lawsuit to have violated Title VII based upon the sexual harassment of one of its female driver trainees. EEOC filed the present suit against Prime in September 2011 based on a discrimination charge filed by Deanna Roberts Clouse. Because Prime had very few female trainers, its same-sex trainer policy forced female trainees to wait extended periods of time, sometimes up to 18 months, for a female trainer to become available, which resulted in most female driver trainees being denied employment. Male applicants were promptly assigned to male trainers. Prime ceased using its same-sex trainer policy in 2013 as a result of the agency's suit.
After the court's order on liability, Prime agreed to pay $250,000 to Clouse to resolve her claims. Last month, Prime agreed via consent decree to pay over $2.8 million in lost wages and damages for 63 other women who were denied job opportunities. EEOC was unable to determine the precise number or identities of all women affected by Prime's unlawful policy because, as the court found, Prime failed to "preserve the lists [of women who were put on waiting lists] and cooperate in identifying women impacted by the policy …" The order on liability and consent decree were entered in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (EEOC v. New Prime Trucking, Inc. Civil Action No.6:11-CV-03367 MDH).
On May 27, the court permanently enjoined Prime from discriminating against applicants or employees on the basis of sex and ordered that Prime shall not implement a same-sex trainer policy or practice that creates barriers to the entry or advancement of female driver applicants or employees. The court's order will ensure the company does not adopt a same-sex trainer policy again. The court also ordered Prime to give priority hiring consideration to the class members and make them immediately eligible for benefits without a waiting period.
"I am pleased by this latest settlement in a series of EEOC cases to address hiring barriers for women in the workplace," said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez. "Women who were denied jobs will now be compensated and have the opportunity to be hired."
Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of EEOC's St. Louis District, said, "When women break into male-dominated fields, they are often trained by men. We should not expect that these women will be sexually harassed. It is disrespectful to men everywhere to assume that they will harass women if they work together in close quarters. Rather, employers have a responsibility to adopt strict anti-harassment policies and practices and enforce them so that all employees - regardless of sex - can work and succeed together."
EEOC St. Louis District Director James R. Neely, Jr. added, "Being male or female is not relevant to whether a person can be a good truck driver. While the trucking industry was desperately looking for drivers, Prime locked women out of their workforce rather than focus its efforts on preventing sexual harassment. Moving forward, we hope that Prime will respect the court's injunction and provide equal opportunities to all applicants, without respect to sex."
According to company information, Prime is one of the nation's largest refrigerated, flatbed and tanker carriers. It is based in Springfield, Mo., and employs over 2,000 persons. Prime provides truck-freight services to customers in Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
EEOC's St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, southern Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.