Brooklyn contractor settles $625K EEOC discrimination suit
- A Brooklyn, NY, contractor agreed to pay $625,000 in order to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discrimination lawsuit, according to the New York Daily News.
- The agency alleged in its complaint against Laquila Group that foreman Angelo Sicchio subjected six black employees to daily racial slurs and, on one project, forced them to use a different bathroom than the rest of the crew. The EEOC said after one of Laquila's employees complained about the treatment in 2014, the company fired him.
- The EEOC reportedly attempted to resolve the issue through its conciliation process before filing the lawsuit in September 2016.
There have been a several of these types of cases within the construction industry in the past few years. Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor, through its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), sued Potomac Abatement, a Maryland demolition and asbestos contractor for discriminatory treatment of African-American and Hispanic workers. The OFCCP levied a laundry list of charges against the company, including sexual harassment, mistreatment and retaliation against those who reported discriminatory behavior.
Because Potomac is a government contractor, the lawsuit alleges that the company violated its obligation to recruit minorities, women and people with disabilities and veterans, as well as maintain appropriate employee records to prove that it had done so. As part of the legal action, the OFCCP requested that Potomac reinstate certain workers, pay them back wages and develop an equal employment opportunity policy.
Also in 2016, a federal court in Connecticut ordered painting contractor Safety Marking to pay two past employees more than $1.5 million each after claims of racial discrimination. The lawsuit alleged that the two had to endure racial and ethnic insults and slurs and that less-experienced white employees were promoted to higher positions within the company instead of them.
Achieving diversity in the construction industry continues to be a challenge. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry employed only 9.1% women, 5.8% African Americans and 1.9% Asian workers. 28.9% Hispanic or Latino workers were employed in 2016, but it is unlikely that the BLS figures account for all undocumented workers.
The industry is trying to tap a more varied pool of workers if for no other reason than to try to overcome the shortage of skilled workers. For example, in Minnesota, construction organizations have come together as part of Project Build Minnesota in an effort to increase the state's number of qualified craft workers. State labor experts have encouraged reaching out to more diverse communities in order to up the number of construction workers.
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