Prime Inc. General Counsel Steve Crawford responded on Thursday afternoon.
"Prime has not been served with the EEOC's lawsuit and is unaware of its contents. 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."
News release from EEOC:
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- New Prime, Inc., one the nation’s largest trucking companies, violated federal law by discriminating against female truck driver applicants when it required that they be trained by female trainers only, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
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, thus 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.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sex discrimination in hiring and terms and conditions of employment. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (EEOC v. New Prime, Inc., Case No. 6:11-cv-03367) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. 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 around 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.”
According to company information, New Prime, based in Springfield, Mo., is one of the nation’s largest refrigerated, flatbed and tanker carriers and employs over 2,000 persons. It provides truck freight services to a customer base in Mexico, the United States and Canada.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.