The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday that Springfield, MO-based motor carrier New Prime Inc. -which does business as Prime Inc.. - violated federal law by discriminating against female driver-applicants.
According to EEOC, New Prime erred when it required these applicants be trained only by female driver-trainers.
That policy, the suit alleges, “resulted in qualified female applicants being placed on a waiting list due to a lack of female trainers, thus delaying or denying them employment, while New Prime provided training for male applicants without similar delay.”
The commission specifically alleges that New Prime’s policy discriminated against Deanne Roberts, who filed an EEOC charge in 2009, and all similarly situated female truck driver applicants from 2003 to the present. EEOC said it “anticipates that New Prime will contend that it established this policy to reduce claims of sexual harassment of female trainees.”
“Employers cannot avoid their responsibility to provide a workplace without sexual harassment simply by placing roadblocks in the path of qualified female applicants,” said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, in a news release.
“Instead of proactively training and monitoring male truck drivers to avoid sexual harassment,” Seely continued, “the company put in place a discriminatory procedure that effectively deprived women of the opportunity to work as truck drivers.”
EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (EEOC v. New Prime, Inc., Case No. 6:11-cv-03367) after it said it first attempted “to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.”
The commission is seeking “an end to the discriminatory policy as well as back pay and other damages for the women adversely affected by this policy,” a class of at least around 100 women, per EEOC.
“Prime has not been served with the EEOC’s lawsuit and is unaware of its contents,” according to a statement released by the carrier’s legal counsel.
“Prime takes pride in maintaining a non-discriminatory, safe working environment for all its associates and contractors, regardless of gender… Prime has fully cooperated with the EEOC at every opportunity for more than a decade and regrets that the EEOC has chosen to take this course of action. Prime believes the EEOC’s claims are without merit and intends to vigorously defend its employment practices and is confident it will ultimately prevail.”