OMAHA, Nebraska – Werner Enterprises, a truckload carrier based in Omaha, has been ordered to pay over $36 million in a lawsuit brought against them by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Victor Robinson, a deaf man who claimed his application to drive for Werner was rejected because of his disability.
The jury verdict was handed down on Friday in Federal District Court for Nebraska. The penalty includes $75,000 in compensatory damages and $36 million in punitive damages. The EEOC argued that Werner’s decision not to hire Robinson was solely based on his deafness.
According to the EEOC, Robinson had applied for a job at Werner in January 2016. Although he did not have previous over-the-road experience as a truck driver, he had obtained a commercial driver’s license (CDL) after training at Roadmaster, a driver training center owned by Werner. Robinson had also obtained an exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, allowing him to operate a motor carrier despite the agency’s physical requirements.
The size of the penalty is notable in comparison to other recent settlements announced by the EEOC. Last week, the EEOC reached several settlements ranging from about $32,000 to over $182,000 with various companies. In one case, a food company was ordered to pay the highest-valued settlement for engaging in sexual harassment.
Werner argued that Robinson was unqualified for the job because of his lack of experience as an over-the-road truck driver, rather than solely because of his deafness. Werner also stated that it had hired deaf drivers with at least six months of experience, which Robinson did not have. The company said it was evaluating its options for an appeal.
In summary, Werner Enterprises has been ordered to pay $36 million to a deaf man, Victor Robinson, who claimed his application to drive for the truckload carrier was rejected because of his disability. The jury verdict in the lawsuit brought by the EEOC includes $75,000 in compensatory damages and $36 million in punitive damages. Werner argued that Robinson was not hired due to his lack of experience as a truck driver, rather than solely because of his deafness. The company said it is considering an appeal.