To settle a suit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, New Prime Trucking, Inc., which does business as Prime Inc., will pay over $3.1 million and make job offers to more than 60 women who were deemed negatively affected by the company’s same-sex driver trainer policy.

According to EEOC, the agreed upon payments follow an earlier court order that found the truckload carrier had violated federal law when it required that female truck-driver applicants be trained only by female trainers.

That court order held that Prime violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by denying employment opportunities to women as a result of its same-sex trainer policy.

EEOC said that Prime had adopted that policy in 2004 after it was found in a previous agency lawsuit to have violated Title VII based upon the sexual harassment of one of its female driver trainees.

The present suit was brought 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,” EEOC stated in a news release. On the other hand, male applicants were “promptly assigned to male trainers.”

EEOC said that 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, whom EOC said were denied job opportunities.

EEOC noted that it 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).

In addition, 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 also ordered Prime to give priority hiring consideration to the class members and make them immediately eligible for benefits without a waiting period.

"When women break into male-dominated fields, they are often trained by men,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of EEOC's St. Louis District. “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."

Springfield, Mo.-based Prime is one of the nation’s largest truckload carriers, providing service to customers in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. 

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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