EEOC files discrimination suit against Prime

Jill Dunn | September 23, 2011

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Prime Inc. over allegations the carrier discriminated against female driver applicants.

The EEOC first attempted to settle the issue without litigation before filing its Sept. 22 complaint against the trucking company in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Prime began a same-sex driver trainee assignment policy in 2003, resulting in female applicants on waiting lists for female trainers to become available, in turn delaying or denying them employment. “Defendant did not place comparable male trainees on such a waiting list because male trainers were plentiful and available,” the complaint stated.

“Prime has not been served with the EEOC’s lawsuit and is unaware of its contents,” said Steve Crawford, Prime’s general counsel Sept. 23. The company is confident it will prevail in defending its non-discriminatory environment and believes the EEOC’s claims are without merit, Crawford said.

“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,” he said.

The commission filed on behalf of Deanne Roberts, who filed an EEOC charge in 2009. It also is representing about 100 similarly situated female truck driver applicants from 2003 to the present. The commission wants the court to issue a permanent injunction against the same-sex trainee policy and any policy discriminating on basis of gender.

Prime likely will argue its practice is meant to reduce claims of sexual harassment of female trainees, the EEOC said. The commission requested a jury trial and asked the court award Roberts and other similar female applicants:

  • Back pay with prejudgment interest.
  • Money for past and future financial losses resulting from the policy described, including relocation, job search and medical expenses that would have been provided through employment at Prime.
  • Compensation for past and future non-financial losses, such as emotional pain and inconvenience.
  • Punitive damages for malicious and reckless conduct.