Werner's $36M Jury Verdict: Deaf Driver Hiring Controversy

Werner Enterprises faces a massive $36M penalty over a rejected application from a deaf driver. The EEOC lawsuit reveals complexities behind hiring and discrimination.

Werner's $36M Jury Verdict: Deaf Driver Hiring Controversy
Source: Werner Enterprises

Werner Enterprises, the Omaha-based truckload carrier, has been handed a significant bill of over $36 million. Victor Robinson, a deaf applicant, was turned down by the company, and he's now the recipient of this hefty sum following a lawsuit initiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Key Points:

  • The Lawsuit: Started in 2018 after failed attempts by the EEOC to reach an agreement with Werner.
  • Victor Robinson: A deaf man with a commercial driver’s license from Roadmaster, a Werner-owned center. Additionally, he had a federal exemption, clearing him to drive despite his disability.
  • Payout Breakdown: Robinson's award consists of $75,000 in compensatory damages, with the rest being punitive.

A Bit of Perspective:
Compared to recent EEOC settlements, this $36M figure is monumental. Just last week, settlements ranged from $32,000 to a bit over $182,000. This makes Werner's payout the elephant in the room.

The Judge's Take:
Judge Gerrard had a clear stance. He believed the EEOC could only claim from Werner if they proved Robinson was fit for the job - with or without accommodations. By the trial's end, he sided with the EEOC, emphasizing that Werner's sole reason for not hiring Robinson was his deafness.

Werner’s Side:

  • Safety First: They voiced concerns about Robinson's inexperience and potential safety risks. Werner's main argument was centered around Robinson's unsuitability for the “placement driver” training program due to his lack of experience, not his deafness.
  • Appeal on the Horizon: Werner thinks the award should've been capped at $300K and is considering appealing the decision.

The saga has ignited discussions on workplace inclusivity, hiring practices, and discrimination.

Source: FreightWaves

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