Werner Enterprises and a driving school subsidiary of the company should have to pay over $36 million for damages related to a 2018 discrimination complaint, a jury found Sept. 1.
The complaint alleged Werner failed to hire a driver because he is deaf and refused to hire him “because of his need for reasonable accommodation.”
The carrier denied the allegations in a 2018 court document filed in U.S. District Court in Nebraska, and a spokesperson said Tuesday by email that the company is disappointed with the jury’s decision and considering an appeal.
“Werner prides itself on fostering an inclusive workplace where our associates are encouraged to bring their full selves to work, including our valued associates who may have a disability,” the company said in a statement this week to Trucking Dive.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit involved the Werner driving school subsidiary Drivers Management. The case arose after the carrier failed to hire driver Victor Robinson, who completed the driver school training in 2016, according according to the complaint. The agency also said in its complaint that Robinson was hired by multiple commercial truck driving companies and successfully worked as a commercial truck driver.
The jury decided in favor of the EEOC in the case.
The jury award, which is still proceeding through court, consisted of two parts.
Robinson was awarded $75,000 in actual damages to compensate him for “suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life.”
Meanwhile, $36 million is for punitive damages for “malice or reckless indifference to Mr. Robinson’s right to not be discriminated against on the basis of a disability,” according to court documents.
The EEOC notes that discrimination claims’ compensatory and punitive damages for a person are limited to a maximum of $300,000 for employers with over 500 workers. A final judgment could come after additional legal steps, including a hearing to consider back pay, an EEOC spokesperson told Trucking Dive.
Werner faces another ongoing EEOC lawsuit
Werner is still in the middle of another EEOC lawsuit that went before a federal jury in June. The case involves another driver who is deaf, Andrew Deuschle, who filed a discrimination complaint after Werner allegedly failed to hire him in 2014 and 2015.
According to an amended complaint, Deuschle completed Amarillo College’s Truck Driving Academy in 2014 and tried working for Werner before and after he gained experience as a driver at C.R. England.
In June, the court ruled in favor of Werner regarding a failure-to-hire discrimination claim. The company said in an email this week that the two cases had nearly identical facts.
But an EEOC spokesperson said the second case is ongoing. The plaintiffs also alleged the company further violated the Americans with Disabilities Act through a job-screening question and illegally classified driver applicants who have disabilities.