New Prime female driver ‘terrorized’ by trainer, lawsuit claims
December 4, 2019
On Monday, Dec. 2, a former trainee for Springfield, Mo.-based New Prime Inc., filed a civil rights lawsuit against the company in an Oregon federal court. The complaint details allegations of being “repeatedly molested, groped, propositioned, tormented, demeaned and harassed” by her trainer.
According to the lawsuit, the driver began working at New Prime as a trainee last year. After initially assigned to two male trainers, the plaintiff requested a female trainer. However, New Prime reassigned another male trainer.
The lawsuit claims the company told the trainee that if she did not like her newest trainer, then “three strikes and you’re out.” In other words, her third complaint about a trainer would get her kicked out of the training program.
On Oct. 28, 2018, the plaintiff and her male trainer embarked on a nationwide driver training session that lasted approximately one month. According to the complaint, the trainee “feared for her life and suffered extreme sexual harassment and sexual assault” by the trainer.
“Inside the cab of that truck, a woman, (the trainee), was being terrorized,” the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit describes several ways in which the New Prime trainer sexually assaulted his trainee.
According to the complaint, he molested her, made her listen to previous sexual exploits, repeatedly propositioned her to have sex and forced her to watch him sexually touching himself. The trainee attempted to reject all of these advances through Nov. 24, 2018.
“For almost 30 days, (the trainee) was locked in the confined space of a truck cab with (the trainer), a sexual predator, and (the trainer) lived out his darker, sickest sexual fantasies with his hostage, (the trainee),” the complaint states.
On at least one occasion, the New Prime trainer allegedly forced the trainee to shine a light from her phone on him while sexually touching himself. The man is also accused of sucking on her toes while she slept. The complaint alleges that the trainer touched her inappropriately while she drove, knowing she could not fight back while she was driving.
In the situation where the trainee had to shine the light, she also recorded the moment on the same phone. A still image from the video, which has been redacted from the public record, is included in the official complaint. Another image submitted to the court shows the trainer looming over the trainee while she lay in the sleeper bed.
In response to the trainee’s rejections, the trainer retaliated against her in several ways, according to the lawsuit. At times, the man would increase the frequency and intensity of the harassment and assault. Other times, he allegedly threatened to beat her. The trainee was also not allowed to park at rest stops or speak with clients when delivering cargo.
Eventually, the trainee reported her trainer to New Prime. She was taken off that truck after a month with the trainer, logging approximately 2,000 miles. Needing a total of 3,000 miles to graduate, the trainee would have had to spend another three to four weeks on the road to complete the program.
Because she was unwilling to return to work due to the conditions, New Prime terminated her employment.
In July, the former trainee filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which immediately issued her a notice of right to sue. In August, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued her the same notice. A formal complaint was filed on Dec. 2 in federal court.
The lawsuit alleges five claims of federal Title VII civil rights violations and 20 Oregon and California state law violations, including sexual battery, assault, sex discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.
Plaintiff’s attorneys are seeking more than $11 million in damages.
New Prime’s history of sexual harassment allegations
The complaint also references several other instances of sexual harassment involving female drivers at New Prime. The company has been in the center of sexual harassment allegations in the past.
In June 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against New Prime for failing to take adequate steps to prevent the sexual harassment of a female truck driver. In that case, Prime was told one of its male owner-operators sexually harassed a female trainee. He was relieved of trainer duties. However, he was still allowed to drive for the company, including working as a co-driver.
In 2016, New Prime had to pay $3 million to women who lost job opportunities as a result of the company’s hiring and training policies. Five years prior, the EEOC began civil action against New Prime for more than 60 women.
In 2003, a female driver was awarded $95,000 after her trainer sexually harassed her and held her against her will. As a result, New Prime installed a same-sex trainer policy the following year. However, a federal court ruled that the policy discriminated against women. Consequently, New Prime removed that policy.
New Prime did not immediately respond to requests for comments.