A federal judge this week agreed with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s claim that the trucking company Prime Inc. discriminated against female truck drivers through their same-sex training requirements.
U.S Judge Douglas Harpool ruled that Springfield-based Prime Inc. violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Prime argued that the policy, which says that only females can train other female drivers, was put in place protect the best interests of the female applicants.
Jim Sullivan, a Kansas City-based attorney for Prime, sent the following statement to the Springfield News-Leader on behalf of the company:
“Prime implemented the policy in good faith believing that significant concerns for the safety and privacy of its female driver trainees satisfied a long-recognized exception to the discrimination laws,” he said.
“In its recent ruling, the Court did not agree that this exception applied to this case. Prime respects the ruling of the Court. Significant issues though still remain to be determined in this case.”
Prime’s same-sex trainer policy was adopted in 2003 after the company was involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit by a female trainee.
In 2011, the EEOC filed suit against Prime again, representing Deanna Roberts, now Deanna Roberts Clouse, who says she was was hired by Prime in 2009 but put on a waiting list due to a lack of female trainers, whereas there was no such list for newly-hired men who were trained right away.
According to the EEOC, between February 2008 and December 2011, Prime denied 45 additional female truck drivers employment opportunities, with some waiting up to 18 months for training, and should therefore be entitled to back pay.
At the time, Harpool denied a monition to rule on such issues, although a ruling on possible damages and a further evaluation of solutions to this policy is expected later.