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Centre woman awarded $800K following trial

BELLEFONTE — The only female truck driver ever employed by a bureau of the state Department of Corrections has been awarded more than $800,000 in a federal civil rights suit.

Jurors in U.S. Middle District Court on Wednesday found Susan Bowersox was a victim of discrimination and was entitled to back and front pay, lost pension benefits and damages for emotional suffering. The total award is $821,835.

Defendants were the Department of Corrections, laundry manager William York and laundry supervisor Matthew Vozniak. Both individuals work at the Benner state prison in Centre County. The $821,835 award includes $7,500 each against York and Vozniak.

Bowersox, a Centre County resident, had sued in 2018 claiming she was subjected to disparate treatment compared to male employees before being terminated on July 28, 2016.

Ten months before she was hired by Correctional Industries in August 2015 at age 58 she had filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging the department had repeatedly passed over hiring her in favor of younger men.

Her primary responsibility was to drive a tractor trailer and/or large box truck to deliver clean and pick up soiled laundry at various DOC institutions, state hospitals and veterans’ homes.

Bowersox claimed she was not given proper training, was subjected to excessive scrutiny and given negative work performance evaluations.

Failure to satisfactorily complete her probationary period due to being a safety and security risk was the reason the Department of Corrections gave for her firing.

The defendants claimed she forgot routes, locked the keys in her truck and returned later than other drivers.

Bowersox contended three days after being hired that Vozniak began putting poor work performance reports in her file and that emails he exchanged with York and others demonstrated a conspiracy to fire her.

She admitted she had some early difficulties such as backing up to a loading dock and compiling inspection logs but argued she had improved.

She alleged Corrections Industries had tolerated many more safety and performance issues by male drivers.

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