A Minnesota-based trucking company has agreed to pay $165,000 to settle a federal lawsuit stemming from allegations the carrier retaliated against a former truck driver who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) about a workplace injury.
Stan Koch & Sons Trucking Inc. (Koch & Sons) of Golden Valley, Minnesota, will also issue an apology to the former driver, Alana Nelson, for how she was treated by the company, according to the EEOC statement.
The carrier, which has 1,345 power units and 810 drivers, must also adopt “a more comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policy,” the EEOC said.
The EEOC filed suit against Koch & Sons in May 2019 after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through the agency’s pre-litigation conciliation process.
“Retaliation has a chilling effect that deters employees from coming forward to assert their rights and interferes with our mission to eradicate discrimination in the workplace,” Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, said in a statement. “Addressing and remedying this type of conduct in the workplace is a core purpose of the agency.”
According to court documents, Nelson was hired as a truck driver for Koch & Sons in July 2012 and was injured nearly a year later in April 2013.
She was placed on leave through the carrier’s worker’s compensation program until July 15, 2013. However, Nelson claims she was fired by Koch & Sons three days after she failed a strength test developed by Cost Reduction Technologies Inc. (CRT).
In December 2013, Nelson filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging Koch & Sons discriminated against her based on her sex when she was fired after failing the CRT — which the carrier uses to measure workers’ strength, range of motion and endurance.
At the time of her discharge, Koch & Sons informed Nelson “that she was eligible to reapply for employment,” according to the complaint.
She inquired about a trucking position at Koch & Sons in January 2014, but Nelson was told “there were no local driver positions available at that time,” court documents allege.
She reapplied for a local driver position with the carrier in April 2014 after seeing Koch & Sons had two openings. Nelson claims the carrier sent her a letter stating that her application was being put on hold “due to a pending legal matter” with the EEOC.
EEOC slaps Koch & Sons with class action complaint over use of CRT test
The EEOC alleges in its class action complaint filed in August 2019 that Koch & Sons use of the CRT test violates sex discrimination law by firing and denying jobs to a class of female drivers who didn’t receive a minimum score on the fitness test.
The suit also seeks to prevent Koch & Sons from continuing to use the CRT test.
“Employers cannot use a test that disproportionately excludes women unless they have proof that the test is actually related to one’s ability to do the job,” Bowman said. “The EEOC is committed to expanding women’s access to traditionally male-dominated careers through the removal of unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to employment.”
In September, Walmart settled a $20 million sex bias lawsuit over its physical ability testing (PAT), which the EEOC alleged discriminated against female applicants for grocery filler positions. The EEOC claimed that the retail giant’s pre-employment PAT is “not job-related” for the work in its class-action complaint. According to the EEOC settlement, the retail giant agreed to discontinue PAT testing for grocery order filler applicants.