Same-sex training. Ok or discrimination?

According to the EEOC, if men can only train men, and women only women, that may be discrimination. 

But, let’s see what a federal court has to say about that after the jump…

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New Prime, Inc. is one of the largest trucking companies in the USA. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued that the New Prime had a policy requiring female truck driver applicants to be trained only by female trainers.

According to this EEOC press release, “Prime adopted its policy in 2003 after it was found in a previous EEOC lawsuit to have violated Title VII based upon the sexual harassment of one of its female driver trainees.” But the EEOC alleged that this new same-sex training policy was discrimination because it allegedly in female trainees waiting longer than male trainees for training. The net effect was that more women were denied employment.

And a Missouri federal court agreed (opinion here):

“Prime contends it put the policy in place in order to protect female applicants. However, the policy is facially discriminatory…in that it places limitations on the opportunities for female applicants to be trained versus men. Prior to this policy being implemented women were put on trucks with male or female drivers on a first come, first served basis. The same-sex policy created a waiting list for females while none existed for males. Therefore, there is no question the policy created an impermissible impediment to training and employment for female drivers that the male drives did not face. This was no small impediment but one which could require women to remain on the waiting list for a year or more while men faced no such delay. The Court finds Prime’s same sex policy was the company’s standard operating procedure and is facially discriminatory resulting in disparate treatment of female applicants and drivers.”

Does this opinion mean that all same-sex training policies are discriminatory on their face? Well, no. Indeed, if a same-sex training policy results in substantially similar employment possibilities for men and women, then the policy is non-discriminatory.

But, still, while it’s easy for me to sit here in the bloggerdome and play arm-chair quarterback — I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night — I’m thinking that, rather than go with a same-sex training policy, maybe some training and a zero tolerance policy could go pretty far to achieve the same goal of limiting sexual harassment.

Without the sex discrimination.