In 2008, a Rochester limousine driver named Gretchen chauffeured Saudi Princess Nura bint Abdallah bin Muhammad Al Saud al-Kabir while her husband, Prince Abdul-Rahman bin Abdul-Aziz, was being treated at the Mayo Clinic.
It was a good gig. Gretchen was pregnant at the time and used the money she earned to take a full year off after her child was born.
When Crown Prince Limousine, based in Rochester, learned the Saudi prince and his entourage were coming back in 2010, it hired 40 drivers, including Gretchen and two other women. But the limo company soon learned that the Saudi prince didn’t want any female drivers in the group. The women were fired.
Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not permitted to drive. While not officially the law of the land, a 1991 fatwa issued by one of the nation’s religious leaders warns that allowing women to drive would “lead to many evils and negative consequences.”
The three fired drivers filed gender discrimination complaints with the EEOC against Prince Abdul-Rahman and Crown Prince Limousine and its owner. Following the EEOC’s unsuccessful attempt to mediate the complaint, the women have now filed suit in federal court.
Note: Employers may not use customer preference as an excuse to skirt anti-discrimination laws.