- A judge reduced a jury verdict of $36 million in punitive damages against Werner Enterprises to $335,682, based on a statutory cap. The discrimination case involved Victor Robinson, a driver who is deaf.
- The carrier also secured another ruling in its favor over a second case as part of dual judgments last week in which two applicants were never hired. In that lawsuit, the judge rejected another allegation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and plaintiff Andrew Deuschle, who is deaf, that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- But as part of a guilty verdict in which Werner “intentionally engaged in discrimination,” the carrier must report on applicant and employee details of individuals with hearing impairments for three years, per the Robinson case judgment.
The dual rulings protected Werner’s bottom line but drew rebukes from Senior U.S. District Judge John Gerrard, who presided over Deuschle’s case and described the carrier as “a likely target for discrimination lawsuits so long as it refuses to hire inexperienced truck drivers on the basis of their deafness.”
A jury last June determined Deuschle, a former applicant, and the EEOC failed to prove its case. The judge’s decision, in favor of Werner, shut the door on a lawsuit involving a hiring process of not preapproving applications in which a recruiter learned about a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration waiver or hearing issue for a potential worker.
“Ben Pile, currently a manager for Werner's placement driver program testified at trial that the policy started ‘around 2016,’ after Deuschle applied to work there,” the judge wrote, adding: “Pile indicated that Werner's recruiting department has not used the policy since at least February 2020.”
A Werner spokesperson said the company had no comment at this time.
Meanwhile, Robinson, who was also awarded $75,000 from the jury verdict in September regarding other damages for pain and suffering, is also entitled to $35,682 in back pay, according to the judgment.
“Werner is entitled to defend its employment decisions on a case-by-case basis,” Gerrard wrote. “But based on the jury's verdict, Werner has not acted in good faith and did not comply with antidiscrimination laws when it intentionally discriminated against Robinson on the basis of his deafness.”