Editor's note: This story includes imagery and references to racial slurs that could be disturbing to readers. It is part of a weeklong series of articles looking at racism in the construction industry. Click here for the rest of the package.
Since early this summer, Construction Dive has reported on a slew of racist incidents on construction jobsites, from racial epithets scrawled on the walls of portable toilets to nooses hung where Black workers would find them. In other incidents, workers and supervisors hurled verbal slurs and joked about lynching.
These incidents came to light as tension and protests rose across the country stemming from acts of racial injustice such as Breonna Taylor’s fatal shooting by Louisville police officers in March and the May death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. The construction industry was not spared from the turmoil, as reports of hate and discrimination on U.S. and Canadian jobsites began surfacing this spring.
Construction Dive readers told us these types of incidents were not a new phenomenon. Over 40% of respondents to a Construction Dive survey said they had seen racist graffiti on a jobsite, 38% reported hearing verbal abuse and racial slurs hurled at Hispanic and Black employees, and 15% said they had seen nooses or racist objects at work.
In fact, one reader described the industry as facing a “racist pandemic.”
Below is a timeline of hate-related occurrences reported on construction sites in the United States and Canada since early this year.
Know of a racist incident not reported here? Email Construction Dive editors at [email protected].
Noose found at Portland State University jobsiteMay 20
A noose was found on the Portland, Oregon, project where local contractor Andersen Construction was working on a building for Portland State University, Portland Community College, Oregon Health and Science University and the city of Portland. The incident is under investigation by the Portland police and a private investigator hired by Andersen.
EEOC sues Texas contractor for discriminatory work conditionsJune 3
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against San Antonio, Texas-based CCC Group Inc., claiming the construction company "fostered a work environment rife with racist comments and discriminatory work conditions" on a New York jobsite in 2016. The EEOC said in a statement that employees and supervisors used racial slurs and threatened Black employees with nooses on site. Additionally, the EEOC said Black workers were given more physically taxing work than their White counterparts, such as working outdoors in harsh cold weather conditions, while others worked inside.
Two nooses found at hospital construction jobsite in TorontoWeek of June 7
Two nooses were found at the Michael Garron Hospital renovation project in the East York neighborhood of Toronto. The nooses were two of four found on three Toronto jobsites in June. The incident spurred the Canadian contractor heading the project, EllisDon, to undertake new diversity training and form an internal anti-racism group. The incident is under investigation by EllisDon.Permission granted by Michael Garron Hospital
Noose found at Iowa Facebook data center jobsiteJune 19
A noose found on a subcontractor's plan lockbox caused Turner Construction to shut down the $400 million Facebook data center project in Altoona, Iowa. The incident occurred on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrated in most states to commemorate the ending of slavery in the U.S. The incident is under investigation by Turner, Facebook and the Altoona Police Department, and two trade groups — the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council and North America's Building Trades Unions — offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.
Noose found in Grosse Pointe South High SchoolJune 21
A noose fashioned from drapery cord was found in a construction area at the high school near Detroit. The contractor on the project, Turner Construction, informed the school system and halted construction for the day. The incident is under investigation by local police.Permission granted by Wikipedia
Noose found at Resorts World Las Vegas jobsiteJune 24
A noose was discovered in one of the towers of the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas project. General contractor W.A. Richardson alerted the authorities and informed all jobsite personnel, including subcontractors and union crews, that they are expected to cooperate with the investigation into who is responsible.Permission granted by Resorts World
Noose found at Johns Hopkins University jobsiteJuly 2
Johns Hopkins University announced that a rope fashioned into a noose was discovered in the Whiting School of Engineering laboratory, which is under construction on the school's Baltimore campus. After the rope was discovered, renovation work at the facility was paused to allow for the investigation to take place and to provide time for the university to work with the contractor to enhance its policies, training and reporting practices related to discrimination and harassment. The incident is under investigation by the university, the FBI, local authorities and general contractor Plano-Coudon LLC.
Noose found at Wisconsin jobsiteJuly 17
A piece of rope-shaped insulation tied to look like a noose and hung from construction equipment was found on an Evansville, Wisconsin, middle school jobsite. Local contractor JP Cullen & Sons reported the incident to Evansville police and it is under investigation.Permission granted by Evansville Police Department
5th noose found at Toronto jobsiteJuly 28
Following the four nooses found in mid-June, a noose was found at one of the light-rail stops on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project, making it the fifth on a Toronto construction site this year. Toronto police are investigating.
Graffiti found at Ohio Facebook data center jobsiteAug. 3
New Albany, Ohio, police found "racially charged graffiti" on six portable toilets at the Facebook data center construction site. Turner Construction, contractor for the $1.7 billion project, halted construction for the week to conduct anti-bias training on-site.
Slurs and graffiti discovered at FC Cincinnati Stadium jobsiteAug. 4
Two racist incidents on this Turner jobsite led the company to halt work to provide anti-bias training for all workers. The incidents reportedly involved use of a racial slur as well as racist graffiti in a portable toilet. Turner said it removed the responsible individuals from the project.(2020). "FC Cincinnati stadium rendering 2019-7-16". Retrieved from Wikimedia commons.
Subcontractor agrees to pay $1.25 million to settle discrimination claims against Apple Park projectAug. 21
California electrical subcontractor Air Systems agreed to pay $1.25 million to settle an EEOC lawsuit alleging that eight African-American employees were subjected to race discrimination while working on a construction project at Apple Park, Apple's corporate campus in Cupertino, California. The harassment from individual workers — which took place between June 2016 and September 2017 — included racist graffiti like swastikas and epithets drawn on the walls of portable toilets, as well as a noose hung at the worksite with a scrawled note containing use of the racial insults, other expletives and a lynching threat. The company allegedly failed to act when notified by two Black employees that a White coworker had taunted them with a racial slur.Permission granted by Apple
Racially motivated damage at Las Vegas Convention Center jobsiteAug. 27
"Racially motivated damage" was discovered in an office belonging to a Black foreman on the $1.4 billion Las Vegas Convention Center expansion jobsite. General contractor Turner/Martin-Harris halted work to conduct anti-bias training and offered a "sizable reward" for information leading to the identification of those responsible. The incident is under investigation by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the contractors.Jenn Goodman/Construction Dive
Black workers sue Mitsubishi Electric for racial harassment, discriminationSept. 4
Four Black construction workers in the escalator and elevator division of Mitsubishi Electric US filed suit against the company for allegedly allowing supervisors to harass them with racial slurs and images (below) and discriminate against them when it came to opportunities for training, higher pay, overtime and career advancement. In addition, the plaintiffs claimed complaints they made to Mitsubishi's human resources department beginning in 2016 went largely unaddressed for years.
Specific allegations from the plaintiffs included supervisors referring to plaintiffs as "undesirables," "lazy" and with the N-word; joking about lynching; a noose placed on a barricade next to one of the plaintiff's assigned elevators; and supervisors assigning the plaintiffs to menial tasks and making them helpers to less experienced White workers.Permission granted by Retrieved from California Superior Court lawsuit
Two more nooses found on Toronto hospital jobsiteSept. 24
Two more nooses were found at the Michael Garron Hospital construction site in Toronto, where two of the racist symbols were discovered earlier this summer, marking the seventh noose in Toronto found and made publicly known. EllisDon held a full-site stand down to address the project team; the firm also is providing access to counseling for any team members who need mental health support. The incident is under investigation by the Toronto Police.
Racial slurs found inside jobsite bathroom near Orlando, FloridaSept. 30
Graffiti that included the N-word and "Black lives spatter" was found in a portable bathroom at a construction site in Casselberry, Florida. The incident is under investigation by Casselberry police.
Racist graffiti found on Toronto hospital jobsiteOct. 1
At the Michael Garron Hospital construction site in Toronto, where a number of nooses had already been reported over the summer, workers discovered black ink on a washroom stall (below) reading "This site needs a N-word purge," CBC reported. The incident is under investigation by the Toronto police.Permission granted by Mohammed Hashim via Twitter