The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing New Prime, one of the largest U.S. truckload carriers, for discrimination against women truck drivers.
The federal agency claims the trucking company violated the anti-discrimination law by requiring women driver applicants be trained only by female trainers. A lack of female trainers means qualified women are placed on a waiting list, effectively denying them jobs, the EEOC said. Male drivers face no such delay.
New Prime, which operates as Prime, is the seventh largest U.S. truckload carrier by revenue, according to data supplied by SJ Consulting Group. The Springfield, Mo.-based carrier, which had more than $1 billion in revenue last year, SJ Consulting said, specializes in refrigerated, flatbed and tank trucking.
New Prime put its female-trainer-only policy in place after an earlier EEOC lawsuit over allegations that male trainers sexually harassed three female trainees. The company settled those harassment claims in 2004 following a jury trial.
The EEOC specifically charged that New Prime’s policy discriminated against Deanne Roberts, who filed an EEOC charge in 2009, and other female applicants. The agency said it expects Prime to argue it established the policy to prevent sexual harassment of women trainees, but the agency challenged that argument.
“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. “Instead of proactively training and monitoring male truck drivers to avoid sexual harassment, the company put in place a discriminatory procedure that effectively deprived women of the opportunity to work as truck drivers."
Prime believes the claims are “without merit,” a company attorney told the Kansas City Star, and intends to “vigorously defend its employment practices.”