Female truck driver allegedly fired for failing strength test gets settlement & apology

A female truck driver was awarded a cash settlement after she alleged that she faced retaliation from a trucking company based on her gender after failing a physical strength test.

Minnesota-based trucking company Stan Koch & Sons Trucking, Inc. has agreed to pay former employee Alana Nelson $165,000 and provide her with “an apology for how she was treated by the company,” according to an October 19 news release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Koch & Sons was sued by the EEOC on May 24, 2019, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

According to court documents, Nelson was hired by the company in 2012 and hurt on the job in April 2013. She was placed on leave through a worker’s compensation program until July 2013, when she was fired shortly after failing a Cost Reductions Technologies Inc. (CRT) isokinetic strength test. The test measures muscular strength, range of motion, and physical endurance.

Nelson was invited to reapply with the company.

She later filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging that Koch & Sons discriminated against her based on gender through the strength test.

Nelson reapplied with Koch & Sons in January 2014 and then again in April 2014, at which time she was reportedly told that she could not be hired at that time due to a pending legal matter — her EEOC complaint.

In August 2019, the EEOC filed a separate class action suit against Koch & Sons over the use of the CRT test, alleging that it “disproportionately screens out women who are qualified for truck driver positions at Koch.”

“Employers cannot use a test that disproportionately excludes women unless they have proof that the test is actually related to one’s ability to do the job,” said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago. “The EEOC is committed to expanding women’s access to traditionally male-dominated careers through the removal of unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to employment.”

In addition to the $165,000 payout and apology, the EEOC also ordered Koch & Sons to install “more comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policy, train its corporate office employees on Title VII’s protections against discrimination and retaliation, and report to the EEOC all future complaints of Title VII discrimination and retaliation.”