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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. New Prime, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

August 14, 2014

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW PRIME, INC. d/b/a PRIME, INC., Defendant, MS. DEANNA ROBERTS CLOUSE, Intervenor

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For Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff: Andrea G. Baran, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Phoenix, AZ; Carl Felix Miller, Jan Shelly, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, St. Louis, Mo; Dayna F. Deck, EEOC, Kansas City, KS.

For New Prime, Inc. d/b/a Prime, Inc., Defendant: James C. Sullivan, LEAD ATTORNEY, Polsinelli PC - KCMO, Kansas City, MO; JoAnne Spears Jackson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Polsinelli PC - Spfld, Springfield, MO.

For Ms. Deanna Roberts Clouse, Intervenor: Jennifer P. Kyner, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kyner Law, PC, Westwood, KS; Paul O. Taylor, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Burnsville, MN.

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ORDER

DOUGLAS HARPOOL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Before the Court is the EEOC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 219); Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment on all Claims for Punitive Damages (Doc. No. 226); Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Title VII's Statute of Limitations (Doc. No. 224); Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment on the EEOC's Claim for a Record-Keeping Violation (Doc. No. 228); and Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment as to All Claims by the EEOC on behalf of Claimants Not Parties to This Action (Doc. No. 230). Plaintiff-Intervenor Deanna Clouse has also filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Doc. No. 222). The Court has carefully considered the motions and related legal suggestions, and has also heard oral argument from the parties.

As set forth herein, the EEOC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 219) is granted in part, and denied in part. Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment on all Claims for Punitive Damages (Doc. No. 226); Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment Based on Title VII's Statute of Limitations (Doc. No. 224); Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment on the EEOC's Claim for a Record-Keeping Violation (Doc. No. 228); and Prime's Motion for Summary Judgment as to All Claims by the EEOC on behalf of Claimants Not Parties to This Action (Doc. No. 230) are denied. Finally, Plaintiff-Intervenor Deanna Clouse's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is granted in part, and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

Prime is an irregular route interstate trucking company that transports various commodities everywhere in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Prime has approximately 2,500 employees, over 4,000 trucks and about 6,700 drivers, both independent contractors and employees. Prime's president is Robert Low and its general counsel is Steve Crawford. Mr. Low is the founder, owner and president of Prime. John Hancock is the Director of Recruiting and Training and has worked at Prime since 1986. Rodney Rader is the Director of Technology and has been with Prime for 25 years. Low, Crawford, Hancock and Rader are all members of the Prime management team and meet weekly.

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Prime initiated a Prime Student Driver (PSD) School to assist with its recruitment of drivers. Prime seeks applicants for truck drivers who may already have their Commercial Driver's License (CDL) or who may not yet have a license. If an applicant does not have a CDL license, they can, but are not required to, attend Prime's PSD School to obtain their CDL.[1] In the PSD program a student attends several days of on-site training to obtain a CDL permit. Once the permit is obtained, the student will drive over-the-road with a PSD program instructor for several weeks to meet the requirements to obtain a CDL license. After this instruction, and if the student obtains a CDL, they then become eligible to be hired by Prime. Students in the PSD program are not guaranteed employment with Prime.

If a student is hired by Prime out of the PSD program, the employee is then required to drive with a Prime trainer for up to six (6) months.[2] An employee in training, " trainee," may be on the road with their trainer for up to six (6) or eight (8) weeks at a time. Trainees without enough driving experience must drive 50,000 - 60,000 miles with a trainer before they can drive alone. Existing Prime drivers volunteer to be instructors and trainers. A driver must have been with Prime for one year to qualify for this position. Prime has approximately 600-800 drivers who want to be trainers. In March 2012, Prime had fewer than 5 female trainers.

In 2004, Prime implemented a " same-sex trainer policy." It required all applicants who do not meet Prime's experience requirements to receive over-the-road training by an instructor and/or trainer who is the same gender as the applicant unless there is some pre-existing relationship between the female applicant and male instructor/trainer. As such, a female applicant would be assigned to a female instructor/trainer unless she had a pre-existing relationship with a male instructor or trainer. Prior to the adoption of this policy, women were put on trucks with the first available instructor/trainer regardless of their gender. The same-sex trainer policy was adopted after Prime was involved in a sexual harassment case brought by three female truck driver trainees.

The effect of this policy was that when a female applicant was ready to be assigned to a trainer or instructor a female driver had to be available. However, based on the number of female drivers available to train, Prime would place female applicants on a " female waiting list" when drivers were not available. Prime did not have a male waiting list. The wait period for assignment for a trainer appears to be disputed but the parties agree female applicants were placed on a waiting list while male applicants were not. Further, it is undisputed that the wait period could be longer than a year. Hancock, a member of the Prime management team, assigned the truck driver recruiter to keep the female waiting list.

Plaintiff Clouse, a female, applied for enrollment with Prime's driver training program. Prior to applying, Clouse had been a team driver with a male truck driver. She had worked in the trucking industry as a dispatcher and had obtained a Missouri Class B CDL in 1997 when she lived in St. Louis. She had also previously been authorized to operate commercial vehicles

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in and out of Canada and in Ohio. While Clouse had experience operating commercial vehicles throughout the United States, she did not have a Class A CDL, which was required by Prime to drive a truck. Clouse applied to Prime for the training program so she could obtain a Class A CDL. She was put on a waiting list as there were no female trainers available. In January 2009, Clouse was told Prime would call her when they had a female trainer available but " not to hold her breath." She informed Prime that she was willing to be trained by a man in order to enter the training program but was told that was not allowed.

On July 9, 2009, Clouse filed a charge of discrimination with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights alleging Prime had engaged in sex discrimination. Specifically, Clouse alleged that Prime told her that her application had been accepted but she could not be hired because she was female. The Charge stated the reason given by Prime was that because Clouse was a female she could only be trained by a female. However, no female trainers were available then or in the near future. On or about July 23, 2009, Prime was served with a Notice of Charge. On November 17, 2009, the MCHR issued a Finding of Probable Cause and transferred the case to the EEOC for further investigation. On April 1, 2010, the EEOC sent Prime a letter stating " the EEOC's investigation of this charge is nation-wide in scope." Approximately one year later, on April 14, 2011 the EEOC sent its Letter of Determination to Prime. The EEOC set forth its alleged evidence and stated " Based on the foregoing, there is reasonable cause to believe that Respondent has subjected Charging Party and a class of female trainees to unlawful discrimination by adopting a policy that denies female trainees training and employment opportunities that are not denied to similarly-situated male trainees..." The letter further stated that " [r]espondent has committed record-keeping violations" and set forth the evidence the EEOC proposed supported this finding.

On the same day as the Letter of Determination, the EEOC sent its letter regarding conciliation. The letter stated " the conciliation period is the last opportunity to settle the charge confidentially with the Commission. If conciliation efforts fail and the Commission files suit based on the charge, the terms of any settlement must be filed in court. Moreover, the Commission will issue a press release when it files suit and again if there is a settlement." On May 3, 2011 Prime notified the EEOC that is was willing to commence the conciliation process. The EEOC then submitted its outline of expectations as to appropriate remedies for the alleged violations. In this letter the EEOC stated " the Commission has identified approximately 675 potential victims of Respondent's trainee assignment policy. (See attached list). If Respondent has information or documents showing that some females on the attached list did not have their opportunity to work delayed or denied because no female instructor or trainer was available, then Respondent should promptly provide that information. In addition, because hundreds of women have applied for driving positions since Respondent implemented the policy in 2003, more potential victims beyond those on the attached list may exist who will need to be identified as part of the conciliation." The EEOC further stated the following with respect to monetary relief:

Respondent agrees to make whole Charging Party, to include payment of back pay with interest and payment of pecuniary compensatory damages, non-pecuniary compensatory damages, attorney's fees and costs, instatement or

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front pay in lieu of instatement; make whole all identified and still-to-be identified victims, to include payment of back pay with interest and payment of pecuniary compensatory damages, non-pecuniary compensatory damages, attorney's fees and costs, instatement or front pay in lieu of instatement; Respondent agrees to assist the Commission in identifying and contacting the victims on the attached list and additional potential victims; agree to set up a fund, in the amount to be determined, to compensate victims.

Prime's counsel reviewed the list of 675 potential victims attached to the conciliation letter and identified men on the list, as well as individuals who had responded to the EEOC that they had applied to Prime and been assigned a trainer, had applied to Prime but taken another job instead, and one female that had applied to Prime, been assigned a trainer but then did not take the job because she became pregnant.

On June 7, 2011 Prime submitted its response to the conciliation proposal and stated that the claim filed with the EEOC was filed by only one individual, Deanna Roberts. It stated Prime would consider the option of reaching a reasonable financial settlement of her claim. Prime indicated it was not interested in soliciting discrimination claims from the 18 page list of individuals attached to the EEOC's letter. Prime informed the EEOC it had evaluated the proposed types of injunctive relief and was especially interested in obtaining some of the relief in order to try and avoid future charges of discrimination and investigation by the EEOC. Prime indicated it " is very interested in conciliating Ms. Robert's claims."

On June 14, 2011, the EEOC failed conciliation and notified Prime. In its letter, the EEOC stated " no further efforts to conciliate this case will be made by the EEOC." Subsequently, the EEOC filed the instant lawsuit.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is proper if, viewing the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp., v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law if they can establish there is " no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Once the moving party has established a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party cannot rest on allegations or denials but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 248.

A question of material fact is not required to be resolved conclusively in favor of the party asserting its existence. Rather, all that is required is sufficient evidence supporting the factual dispute that would require a jury to resolve the differing versions of truth at trial. Id. at 248-249. Further, determinations of credibility and the weight to give evidence are the functions of ...


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