Editor’s note: This story includes imagery and references to racist incidents that could be disturbing to readers.
- Redmond, Washington, police are investigating the discovery of a noose with a Black worker’s tool and name attached to it at a Meta (formerly Facebook) construction site as a hate crime, authorities confirmed.
- Jill Green, public information officer for the Redmond Police Department, told Construction Dive a 33-year-old Black carpenter who had been working at Meta’s Building X construction site came to the department on June 25. He reported finding the noose, along with one of his tools taped to the rope with his name written on it. He provided police with a photo of the display (below).
- In Washington state, hate crimes, including the display of a noose, carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
A source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal at work, said the carpenter had already submitted his two weeks’ notice on the job after another worker previously gave him a handful of cotton, and said, “We picked this for you.”
Then, in the days after submitting his notice, the carpenter could no longer find his carpenter’s square, the source said. When the carpenter went to retrieve his tools on his last day, he found the noose, with his carpenter’s square attached, hanging in the equipment trailer and his name scrawled on the tape.
Seattle-based BNBuilders, the general contractor on the project, said in a statement sent to Construction Dive that it is investigating the incident, and that it had placed several employees on immediate administrative leave.
The firm said it had interviewed nearly a dozen people who may have seen or been aware of the incident, with more interviews ongoing, and informed the carpenters’ union of the incident. BNBuilders also performed two project stand-down meetings to discuss the incident with workers and emphasize its zero-tolerance policy for biased action on its jobsite.
“There is no place at BNBuilders for violent, racist threats. We are fully committed to working with law enforcement, and we are working diligently to provide investigators with all the information we have to bring any perpetrators to justice,” the company said. “We offer to the employee targeted by this vile act both our unreserved solidarity and our commitment to getting him justice. No person should feel mistreated, threatened or harassed at their workplace, and certainly never at our workplace.”
It did not comment on whether it was offering a reward in the case. Last month, following a similar incident at the Y-12 Uranium Processing Facility construction site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the North America’s Building Trades Unions offered a reward of $200,000 in the case.
Last year, Amazon and general contractor RC Andersen offered a $100,000 reward for information about several nooses placed on an Amazon fulfillment center construction site in Connecticut. But no arrests were ever made in the case, local police confirmed, and the reward was never collected, according to an Amazon spokesperson.
A representative from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fourth bias event for Meta
The incident marks at least the fourth alleged bias-related event at a Meta or Facebook construction site in the last two years.
Nooses were found at the firm’s data center projects in Altoona, Iowa, and Eagle Mountain, Utah, (where a worker was eventually fired), while racially charged graffiti was reported at its $1.7 billion New Albany, Ohio, data center project.
Reached for comment, the firm said the incidents were not unique to its jobsites.
“Unfortunately, incidents like these are occurring at construction sites across the country, not just Meta,” spokesperson Tracy Clayton said in an email.
In fact, a similar case of alleged bias at a tech firm’s jobsite was brought to light last week when the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued summons for Microsoft to respond to a discrimination and whistleblower suit. The complaint, which also involved contractors Skanska and Balfour Beatty, alleges an African-American laborer was harassed based on his skin color and ultimately fired from the software company’s multibillion-dollar Redmond campus renovation project.
Both tech giants have said that they have zero tolerance for acts motivated by racial bias.
“We are working with all involved parties to investigate and help ensure those responsible are held accountable,” Clayton said. “We are also working closely with our general contractor to ensure appropriate measures are in place to help prevent incidents like this from happening again.”
Nooses on construction sites gained attention in the industry after the murder of George Floyd two years ago. Construction Dive documented over 20 incidents of nooses and other racist incidents on jobsites in 2020.
The number and prevalence of racist events seemed to abate somewhat in 2021 and the first half of this year, according to media reports, tracking of incidents by Turner Construction and data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The industry has taken steps to fight hate on jobsites. The Associated General Contractors’ Culture of Care campaign has contractors pledge to make jobsites free from harassment, hazing and bullying. And last year, six major contractors, including Turner, Mortenson and Gilbane, launched the inaugural Construction Inclusion Week to combat hate in the industry.
Still, during a recent hearing on the prevalence of discrimination in construction in light of $1.2 trillion in federal infrastructure funding, EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said nooses on construction jobsites had become “chillingly common.”