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UPDATE: Nov. 18, 2021: M.A. Mortenson shut down its Meta (formerly Facebook) jobsite for the second time in just over a week on Tuesday after it found more hateful graffiti at the Eagle Mountain, Utah, data center project.
Mortenson said it imposed a site-wide stand down and sent workers home until Friday. That amounts to a work stoppage of three days total on the $1 billion project.
"We are really focused on making sure it is clear that this behavior is not tolerated and implementing additional security and training to ensure the safety and well-being of people on site," a spokesperson for Meta told Construction Dive.
The shutdown will be used to emphasize Mortenson's anti-harassment policy and to put additional training, safety, and security enhancements in place, according to a Mortenson statement shared with Construction Dive.
"These measures include but are not limited to respectful workforce training for everyone on the project, additional security cameras, investigative assistance from external resources, access monitoring throughout the site, a heightened security presence and relocation of portable toilets into controlled areas," the company said.
"Mortenson takes this matter very seriously and we are continuing to work with local authorities to identify the individual(s) responsible and prosecute them to the full extent of the law," the statement said.
- M.A. Mortenson Company and Meta, formerly Facebook, shut down their sprawling data center jobsite outside Salt Lake City on Monday and sent 1,300 workers home after a racist threat was found scrawled inside a port-a-potty there.
- Someone wrote "Kill a n----- day 11/29" on the inside of the bathroom door, according to the Utah County Sheriff's Office, at Meta's 2.4 million-square-foot Eagle Mountain jobsite. Authorities are investigating the action as a possible hate crime, and are paying particular attention to the date.
- "It's possible they intend to hurt somebody, or encourage others to do that, so we have to take it seriously," Sgt. Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the sheriff's office, told Construction Dive. "We'll work closely with Mortenson and Facebook as we get closer to the day that was written down." He said police didn't know of any particular significance attached to the date.
Mortenson and Meta are offering a $50,000 reward for information that identifies whoever is responsible.
"We stopped work to immediately and directly address this situation with team members and project partners, underscore our team's anti-harassment policy and restate our expectations for conduct on site," Mortenson said in a statement. "[We] are committed to creating a culture of inclusion, fostering a diverse workforce, and to maintaining an environment where dignity and respect for everyone on our project is paramount.”
At the Utah project, Cannon said cameras were used on site, but didn't cover the restrooms. "The nature of construction is that's one of the areas where cameras don't get installed at the outset," Cannon said, adding that authorities suspect the graffiti was written by a worker on the jobsite.
The Meta facility, which is one of 17 data centers the company runs around the world, formally opened this summer, but work is continuing on a 900,000-square-foot expansion. Meta said once the project reaches completion, which is slated for the end of 2023, it will represent an investment of more than $1 billion.
Neither firm provided an estimate of the cost of the shutdown.
“Meta, formerly Facebook, has zero tolerance for any racist acts," the firm said in a statement emailed to Construction Dive, which alluded to the recurring nature of hate on jobsites. "While this is a challenge facing the entire industry, we're working with our general contractors to implement measures that will help prevent them at any of our construction sites."
Mortenson said it immediately notified police when the graffiti was found Monday morning.
"Mortenson's priority is the safety and welfare of our team members and all people on our projects," the firm said in its statement. "We are investigating bias-motivated graffiti found on the Eagle Mountain project site. We strongly condemn any form of racism or bigotry, and we have a clear, zero-tolerance anti-harassment, anti-discrimination policy. Mortenson takes this matter very seriously and we reported it to local authorities."
The incident came to light just two weeks after the conclusion of the inaugural Construction Inclusion Week, which Mortenson and five other major contractors founded to combat hate within the construction industry. In October, Mortenson CEO Dan Johnson told Construction Dive that the company was committed to promoting inclusion within the industry, even if that meant not hiring hard-to-find workers who didn't agree with its approach.
"Everybody has a choice," Johnson said. "We've made a choice that we're going to be diverse and inclusive and to embrace equity. If you don't want to do that, you don't have to work here."
Since George Floyd's death in police custody last year, dozens of racist incidents have emerged on major construction jobsites, including the hanging of nooses and the display of hateful graffiti.
Turner Construction, another founding member of CIW, similarly shut down Facebook jobsites in 2020 in Ohio and Iowa, when similarly racist epithets, as well as a noose, were found there. Earlier this year, multiple nooses appeared on the jobsite of an Amazon fulfillment center in Connecticut, prompting general contractor RC Andersen to install numerous cameras throughout the facility.