A Centre County woman who is the only female truck driver ever hired by the state Department of Corrections won more than a million dollars Wednesday after a federal jury found the department and two male employees discriminated against her.
Susan Bowersox alleged in the 2018 lawsuit that the DOC repeatedly passed her over in favor of younger, less qualified men. She was only offered the job after an administrator ordered she be hired.
But the discrimination continued once she was on board, Bowersox alleged.
Her supervisors Matthew Vozniak and Bill York — who work at Benner state prison — were part of a group that spent months trying to get her fired. That included inadequate training, excessive scrutiny and inaccurate performance evaluations.
Attorney Maggie Coleman said it was “one of the most blatant sex discrimination cases” she’s seen. Jurors reached their verdict in less than two hours. The trial lasted five days.
Bowersox won $821,835, including $15,000 from Vozniak and York combined. That total included front pay, back pay, lost pension benefits and punitive damages. The DOC must also pay her attorneys’ fees, pushing the total to more than $1 million.
“The jury sent a clear message to the managers at Correctional Industries and anyone who tries to shut women out of the workplace. We are no longer living in the 1950s,” Coleman said Thursday. “This behavior will not be tolerated.”
Bowersox was fired in 2016, just days before her one-year probationary period was set to end. “Men at every level” attempted to terminate her numerous times, Coleman wrote.
Department employees claimed — sometimes erroneously — that she forgot her routes, locked her keys inside her vehicle a handful of times, didn’t drive the vehicle properly and had slow delivery times.
Vozniak, she alleged, ignored similar or worse conduct from men. One male truck driver lost his keys and another crashed into a pole; neither were terminated.
The only truck drivers to be demoted from their positions were either involved in “numerous accidents that caused damage” or fatal crashes, Coleman wrote.
A DOC spokesperson wrote in an email Thursday that the agency is reviewing the verdict. The department declined further comment.
“My experience with Correctional Industries was stressful and embarrassing,” Bowersox said in a written statement. “I wanted to make sure that this didn’t happen to the next woman who works there.”