- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Hatzel & Buehler, alleging the Wilmington, Delaware-based commercial electrical contractor violated labor law through discriminatory hiring and recruitment of workers aged 40 years and older at its New Jersey office.
- Since at least November 2020, a Hatzel & Buehler vice president in New Jersey allegedly refused to hire older candidates because of their ages, according to the suit.
- The EEOC charged that a vice president of the New Jersey branch allegedly requested that a recruiting company seek out younger candidates for job opportunities, and refused to hire older workers who did not fall into his stated age range.
Hatzel & Buehler, which has locations in eight states and Washington, D.C., declined Construction Dive’s request for comment.
According to court documents, in May 2021, the vice president contacted the unnamed recruiting company about two positions at Hatzel & Buehler’s New Jersey branch: electrical estimator and project manager. He allegedly told the recruiter the company would not consider candidates with over 25 years of experience.
For instance, one applicant was 65 years old with more than 32 years of experience in September 2021 when he applied for the positions, but the New Jersey vice president allegedly spoke to the recruiter “and stated words to the effect that [he] was too old to be hired for the position,” according to the court documents.
In another case, a 58 year old with 12 years of electrical estimating experience applied for a job in August 2021. The vice president reportedly forwarded the applicant’s résumé to Hatzel & Buehler’s chief estimator, with a note calling attention to how long ago the person had started work and a guess about his age.
The New Jersey vice president told the recruiter he didn’t hire the estimator because he found his clothing was not presentable, but told the EEOC he didn’t hire him because his experience was not the type of work Hatzel & Buehler performed.
The EEOC’s lawsuit also charges that the vice president failed to retain job applicant and hiring-related records in violation of federal law.
Age in construction
“American workers are staying in the workforce longer than ever before,” Debra Lawrence, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Philadelphia office, said in the release. “It is imperative that the EEOC protect the rights of older workers to be free from age discrimination at every step of the employment process.”
Since 2022, EEOC has intensified its scrutiny on reports of discrimination at construction firms, and designated the sector as an area of concern in its five-year enforcement plan.
Construction’s need for workers could worsen as the median age of those already in the industry continues to rise.
In 2022, the median age of construction and extraction occupations workers was 41.2. About 45% of construction workers are 45 and older, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data available.
As the median age rises and skilled workers retire, there are fewer qualified, experienced workers to take their place.
Experts have emphasized the need to increase recruiting tactics for younger workers while pushing for data capture or documentation from experienced construction workers, in order to avoid a “brain drain.”