Springfield, Mo.-based New Prime Inc., better known as Prime Inc., discriminated against female truck driver applicants when it required that they be trained by female trainers only, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed Thursday.
According to the EEOC’s suit, this policy resulted in qualified female applicants being placed on a waiting list due to a lack of female trainers, delaying or denying them employment, while New Prime provided training for male applicants without similar delay.
The EEOC specifically charged 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. The EEOC anticipates that New Prime will contend that it established this policy to reduce claims of sexual harassment of female trainees.
The EEOC seeks 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 100 women, the EEOC believes.
“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.”
Steve Crawford, general counsel for Prime Trucking, told the Springfield News-Leader in an e-mail that while the company had not yet been served any papers in the suit, “Prime takes pride in maintaining a non-discriminatory, safe working environment for all its associates and contractors, regardless of gender. Prime is proud of its jobs-creation record in this economy for both men and women and believes litigation such as this distracts from its objective to create jobs.
“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.”
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