Three female chauffeurs sue Saudi royal for discrimination, awarded $130,000 each


A federal judge has awarded damages to three Minnesota women who sued after they were dismissed from their chauffeur jobs because a Saudi prince wanted only male drivers.

United States (US) District Judge Joan Ericksen on Thursday awarded $130,000 each to Gretchen Cooper, Barbara Herold and Lisa Boutelle.

In November, Ericksen ruled in favour of the three women, who filed a gender discrimination lawsuit in 2012 in Minneapolis.

The women received $100,000 each for mental anguish and suffering under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the Star Tribune reported.

Erickson doubled the $15,000 that each woman sought for wage loss, to $30,000, but did not grant punitive damages, saying that while the defendants may have acted unlawfully, the women bringing the lawsuit had not shown they acted with “deliberate disregard or malice”.

The women were among 40 drivers hired in October 2010 to chauffeur Prince Abdul-Rahman bin Abdul-Aziz, his family and friends while the prince was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

The lawsuit alleged that the prince and his entourage told the limousine companies they wanted male chauffeurs.

Two of the three companies involved have settled with the women. Crown Prince Limousine remained a defendant.

Online court records did not list an attorney to comment on behalf of Mohamed Ali Elbashir, who does business in Minnesota as Crown Prince Limousine, or the prince. The Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington, DC., was closed Saturday.

The women were represented by Gender Justice, a legal advocacy organisation based in St. Paul.

Lisa Stratton, one of the women’s attorneys, praised the judge’s order.