EEOC files lawsuits against trucking companies

| 10/4/2011

In recent weeks, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed several lawsuits on behalf of truck drivers who allege they were discriminated against by employees at the trucking companies where they worked.

Justine Lisser, attorney in the EEOC’s Communications office, told Land Line Now on Monday, Oct. 3,that it’s just a “coincidence” that several trucking companies, including New Prime Inc, of Springfield, MO, Sutter Transfer Service of Yuba City, CA, and Scully Distribution Services of Fontana, CA, are being sued by the EEOC citing employment discrimination issues.

“At the end of our fiscal year, we often have a flurry of litigation activity and a lot of cases that have been in the pipeline get filed in court,” Lisser said. “And it just so happened that this particular September a lot of our district offices all across the country had lawsuits against trucking companies, but it’s not part of a concerted effort on the EEOC to target the trucking industry.”

The latest EEOC lawsuit alleges that management officials dating back to 2003 at Scully Distribution Services, later known as Ryder System Inc., engaged in “pervasive and wide-ranging discrimination, harassment and retaliation against a class of the companies’ non-white employees.”

The lawsuit, which was filed after the EEOC failed to reach a pre-litigation settlement with Scully, seeks compensatory and punitive damages for the class and back pay for victims of retaliation.

In mid-September, the EEOC filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against Springfield, MO-based New Prime Inc., alleging the company uses “unlawful employment practices” when it comes to hiring and training female drivers.

According to the EEOC lawsuit, Prime has a “same-sex truck driver trainee assignment policy, which has resulted in delaying or denying training and employment opportunities for female applicants” since approximately January 2004.

EEOC attorney Jan Shelly told Land Line, that Prime’s policy allowed female applicants to be trained by only female trainers unless a female driver could “produce a male trainer with whom she had a prior relationship, such as through marriage, family or affiance.”

Shelly said female applicants were placed on a “waiting list” until a female trainer became available, but that there was no waiting list for male drivers because Prime had plenty of male trainers.

“The problem is that because the policy was based on gender, the effect of the policy was that women who didn’t care about the gender of their trainer – but who wanted and were qualified and needed the job – were unable to go forward with the training. And that’s where the problem came in,” Shelly said.

During the course of the investigation, Shelly said the EEOC has found that female drivers from nearly every state have been affected by Prime’s same-sex training policy.

“The policy has been in place for quite some time and had the effect of delaying or denying female applicants an equal opportunity to secure even the training, much less a position,” Shelly said. “It’s sort of a vicious cycle. Over a period of time there are less women trainers because you are hiring less women, and that perpetuates the problem.”

Lisser said that while the EEOC has the legal authority to target a specific industry, it seldom does.

The EEOC has recently filed lawsuits against Joe Ryan Trucking of Phenix City, AL, alleging sex discrimination charges against the company’s owner.

Another trucking company, Howard Sheppard Inc. of Sandersville, GA, agreed to pay a former female truck driver $32,500 in back pay to settle an EEOC lawsuit for unlawful retaliation when she was fired after making complaints about sexual harassment.

In late September, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Stevens Transport of Dallas, TX, alleging the company engaged in “disability discrimination.”

Land Line Now Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report.