The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Prime Inc. alleging the trucking company failed to take adequate steps to prevent the sexual harassment of a female truck driver.
In its complaint filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Missouri, the EEOC claims the Springfield, Mo.-based carrier created a hostile work environment for Melinda Huerta, one of its drivers.
The company partnered her with Eric Weekley, a former trainer who previously had been involved in the sexual harassment of a female he was training. As a result, Weekley was held from his training duties for six months in May 2016.
Despite halting Weekley’s training duties, Prime allowed him to continue working as a team driver alongside other drivers.
Huerta claims she was not informed of Weekley’s past behavior.
According to the lawsuit, Derek Hausman, a fleet manager for the company, knew of Weekley’s sexual harassment history, including the suspension, but did not share the information with Huerta.
Huerta and Weekley were co-drivers from Oct. 4, 2017, to Nov. 17, 2017. During that time, Huerta claims Weekley made sexually provocative comments toward her.
After Huerta repeatedly told Weekley that his sexual comments were unwelcome, he told her that if she got out of the truck “she would be fired and lose her CLD license,” the lawsuit alleges.
Prime, which has approximately 7,475 drivers, did not return Trucks.com’s request for comment.
The EEOC said Prime’s behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects workers from sexual harassment and discrimination.
“Every employer has an obligation to take adequate steps to prevent sexual harassment in their workplace,” said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District.
“When employers fail to take those steps, they fail all their workers and enable a cycle of abuse and sexual harassment to continue,” Baran said.
The lawsuit seeks monetary and injunctive relief for Huerta as well as injunctive relief to prevent Prime from engaging in future sexual harassment or the creation of a hostile work environment based on sex. The suit also orders Prime to institute and carry out policies, practices and programs that provide equal employment opportunities for female workers.
Prime has been investigated by the EEOC before.
In May 2016, the trucking company agreed to pay more than $3.1 million in lost wages and damages to 63 women who were denied job opportunities because of the company’s now-discarded same-sex training procedures.
The lawsuit stemmed from a discrimination charge brought by Deanna Roberts Clouse in 2011. She and other drivers were discriminated against because Prime had introduced a same-sex trainer policy in 2004. Because the company had few female trainers, wait times for female drivers to be trained extended up to 18 months.
Prime discontinued its same-sex trainer policy in 2013 as a result of the EEOC’s lawsuit.