Women Win $130K Each In Chauffeurs Discrimination Case Against Saudi Prince Who Insisted Upon Male Drivers

Three women won a unique chauffeur’s discrimination case. A federal judge awarded damages to the women who were asked not to drive for a Saudi prince. The prince had insisted that only male drivers will drive for him and his family while they were in America.

Three women chauffeurs won hundreds of thousands of dollars as damages after they were dismissed from their jobs because a Saudi prince only wanted male drivers. A federal judge awarded the women $130,000 each after they had sued the agency that had hired them. The gender discrimination case was filed way back in 2012 in Minneapolis. The Saudi royal was in America to seek treatment, and had hired a total of 40 drivers for his entire brood’s transportation.

U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen awarded $130,000 each to Gretchen Cooper, Barbara Herold, and Lisa Boutelle, reported the Sydney Morning Herald. Though the case was filed in 2012, the ruling, in favor of the three women in the chauffeur discrimination case was announced in November of last year.

Prince Abdul-Rahman bin Abdul-Aziz had hired a total of 40 drivers, just to ferry himself and his family and friends around. He had come to America, seeking treatment at the top Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It was way back in October, 2010, when the Saudi royal’s administrative staff acted upon the prince’s instructions to do away with the women chauffeurs. According to the lawsuit, the prince and his entourage told limousine companies they wanted to hire male chauffeurs.

Ironically, the Saudi prince’s decision to refuse women chauffeurs had nothing to do with prejudice about the female gender or perhaps females were considered inferior to men for the job of driving. The primary reason to refuse female drivers was that Saudi Arabia strictly prohibits women drivers and the prince did not want any women to be seen driving him or his family and friends around.

Each of the women was awarded $100,000 for “mental anguish and suffering,” as per the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Interestingly, while the judge doubled the $15,000 that each woman was seeking for wage loss to $30,000, he did not grant punitive damages, reported the Sunday Express. The judge noted that while the defendants may have acted unlawfully, the women bringing the lawsuit had not shown the defendants acted with “deliberate disregard or malice.” What this essentially means is that the defendants did break the law by discriminating against women chauffeurs or committed gender discrimination, but they had no deliberate ill-intention behind their actions.

Though the judge did order for compensation of loss of pay, he noted that the court did not find any evidence that the Saudi prince’s decision to do away with women drivers was spurred by deliberate act of malice against the particular set of women, reported Yahoo.

Lawyer Jill Gaulding noted that the women were hired by the chauffeur companies because they thought they would be better suited to drive “ladies and kids.” It was an “elegant” solution. Middle Eastern countries observe strong segregation between the genders, and a woman driver for a female relative could easily avoid the accidental interaction. It is interesting to note, the lawyer felt the companies that initially hired the women might have committed gender discrimination as well, reported ABC News. She argued, the companies assumed women drive more safely than men and in some ways, the sexism “sharply limited” the women’s employment opportunities. Moreover, it was unlawful on the company’s part to have discriminated against employees simply because a customer asked them to, pointed out one of the women’s lawyers, Lisa Stratton.

“The key issue for us is people know now that it is not legal in the state of Minnesota or the United States to discriminate because your customer asks you to. When you do business in the United States, the law of the United States applies.”

[Photo by Fayez Nureldine/Getty Images]

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