Discrimination and Harassment: Addressing the Scourge in the Construction Industry

Your workplace should be free of discrimination and harassment. Contact the attorneys of Helmer Friedman LLP for information.

Recent studies and investigations suggest that the construction industry stands out from its peers due to a significant prevalence of hate, bias, and discrimination. More so, the industry is marked by egregious instances of harassment. This has made the sector a focal point for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under the current Biden administration, which has singled out industries where women and workers of color are underrepresented.

In the post-Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act era, this focus on hostile work environments in construction has intensified. A noteworthy step was an EEOC hearing dedicated to investigating the culture of racism and sexual harassment within construction. The agency’s yearlong study culminated in a June 2023 report highlighting hostility and discrimination on construction sites.

The construction industry’s unique characteristics make it a hotbed for such adverse behaviors. A homogenous workforce and cyclical and project-based work leave workers exposed to discrimination. These acts of hostility range from taunting tradeswomen and vandalizing black workers’ toolboxes to retaliatory transfers or unfair reduction of hours.

With an urgent need to root out bias, six major general contractors inaugurated Construction Inclusion Week. This initiative mirrored the sector’s successful ‘Safety Week,’ aimed at eliminating bias at building sites.

The EEOC guide proposes five key strategies to combat discrimination and promote a healthier working environment. These include committed and engaged leadership, consistent accountability, comprehensive harassment policies, trusted complaint procedures, and regular interactive training. These are not legal mandates, but adopting these practices will significantly safeguard employers against liability in the event of grievances.

Addressing bias and harassment is not only about creating a conducive work environment; it’s also a strategic move to combat the industry’s labor shortage. Creating an attractive working environment efficiently recruits and retains a diverse workforce, from women to people of color.

Tackling discrimination and harassment has dual advantages. It improves workplace safety and ensures continuous workforce supply aligned with the industry’s growth and needs. Adopting practices that foster a harassment-free workplace is a step in the right direction, not just a compliance checklist.

Protecting Construction Industry Employees and Union Members from Hostile Work Environment

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Every employee, irrespective of their industry, has the right to a dignified and respectful workplace environment. Distinct laws and regulations protect against discrimination and harassment that can foster a hostile work environment. This article will focus on the construction industry and union members, elucidating the laws that arm them against such unacceptable situations.

The Construction Industry and Trade Unions

Discrimination and harassment on a construction site can take various forms. Whether it’s racial or sexual discrimination or harassment, such occurrences can significantly impact a worker’s mental and physical health, productivity, and overall work satisfaction. Recognizing this, the government has established strict laws and rules to protect the rights of all construction workers, including those members of trade unions.

Fostering a Respectful Work Environment

In a recent civil rights case filed by the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights brought a lawsuit against the Local 11 Ironworkers Union. The complaint accuses Local 11 of fostering a hostile work environment, resulting in unlawful discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, and sex. The union’s leaders and members allegedly perpetuated this toxic environment, failing to take adequate measures to prevent, halt, or rectify the situation.

Additionally, Local 11 is accused of racial discrimination through its employment referral system, which systematically overlooked Black members for job opportunities and assigned them less desirable positions even when selected for jobs. These charges of discrimination and harassment highlight that no organization is exempt from the obligation to maintain a respectful and equitable work environment.

Legal Protections

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to unions and construction employees. Specifically, Title VII of the act prohibits discrimination by trade unions, schools, or employers involved in interstate commerce or doing business with the federal government. This provision ensures equal treatment and protection against discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex within union-related contexts.

Your Rights Are Protected

As a construction worker or a union member, you can rest assured that many laws safeguard your rights. You should not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment at your workplace. Stand firm against such misconduct and know that the law stands with you.

In conclusion, a hostile work environment is detrimental to individual workers and the industry’s productivity and integrity. The government has implemented stringent laws to prevent such occurrences and protect the rights and dignity of all construction industry employees and trade union members.

The High Cost of Failing to Address Sexual Harassment: A Case Study

Unaddressed sexual harassment complaints creating a hostile work environment. Contact the lawyers at Helmer Friedman LLP for help.

A fundamental objective of every organization should be to provide a safe and conducive environment for employees. Unfortunately, at times, some companies lag in upholding this, one of them being AMZ Manufacturing Co. A glaring example of the high cost of failing to address sexual harassment, this case ultimately resulted in a costly settlement of $110,000.

AMZ, a Pennsylvania-based electroplating, painting, and assembly business, was accused of violating federal law by subjecting two of their female employees to a hostile work environment due to their sex. One was relentlessly subjected to demeaning cat-calls and crude comments about female anatomy. Another was the target of inappropriate touching, crude comments about her sexual orientation, and unwelcome sexual advances.

Despite receiving complaints from both women, AMZ failed to take effective action to stop the harassment. This lack of response is not only a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but it also paints a picture of a company where sexual harassment is not taken seriously.

This case eventually led to a lawsuit, EEOC v. AMZ Manufacturing Co., filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit was only pursued after attempts to reach a pre-litigation settlement through voluntary conciliation failed. What is the cost of this negligence? AMZ will pay a whopping $110,000 in a settlement on June 26, 2024.

The high cost of ignoring sexual harassment isn’t only financial. It fosters a hostile work environment, erodes employee morale, and tarnishes the company’s reputation. The AMZ case serves as a reminder of the imperative need to take sexual harassment complaints seriously and take swift, effective action to address them.

The foothold of every successful business lies in the well-being of its employees. Companies must take substantive steps towards ensuring a workspace free of sexual harassment, as failure to do so can have severe consequences, both legally and financially. This case underlines the significant cost of failing to address sexual harassment allegations, sending a clear message – ignoring sexual harassment is not just ethically wrong, it’s prohibitively expensive.

The High Cost of Injustice: Didlake, Inc. Faces Over $1 Million Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

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In a recent judgment, Didlake, Inc., a well-known government contractor, has been ordered to pay over $1 million for a disability discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. This case has significant implications for employees with disabilities, highlighting the importance of understanding and protecting one’s rights under the law. In this blog post, we will explore the case details, the violations committed by Didlake, Inc., and what this means for disabled employees. Whether you are an employee with a disability or know someone who is, this information is crucial.

The Judgment Against Didlake, Inc.

In a recent court ruling, Didlake, Inc. was found guilty of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The company, which provides janitorial and maintenance services to federal worksites throughout Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, was ordered to pay more than $1 million in damages. This decision serves as a powerful reminder of the legal protections available to disabled employees and the severe consequences for companies that fail to comply.

Who is Didlake, Inc.?

Didlake, Inc. is a government contractor that specializes in providing janitorial and maintenance employees to various federal worksites. Their operations span across Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Despite their significant role in the workforce, the company has faced serious allegations regarding their treatment of disabled employees.

Denial of Reasonable Accommodations

One of the key issues in the lawsuit was Didlake, Inc.’s denial of reasonable accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing employees. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, ensuring they can perform their job duties effectively. However, Didlake, Inc. failed to meet this requirement by refusing to hire an ASL interpreter for safety meetings, leading to significant challenges for affected employees.

Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

By denying these accommodations, Didlake, Inc. violated the ADA, which is designed to protect disabled employees from discrimination in the workplace. This violation not only highlights the company’s disregard for legal requirements but also underscores the importance of understanding one’s rights under the ADA.

Firing Employees Who Requested Medical Leave

Another major violation by Didlake, Inc. involved firing employees who requested medical leave. The ADA protects employees’ rights to request reasonable medical leave without fear of retaliation. However, Didlake, Inc. fired employees who exercised this right, further compounding their legal troubles.

Further ADA Violations

The act of firing employees for requesting medical leave is a clear violation of the ADA. This action not only strips employees of their legal rights but also creates a hostile work environment for those with disabilities. Such behavior is unacceptable and highlights the need for ongoing vigilance and legal protection.

Implications for Disabled Employees

The judgment against Didlake, Inc. has far-reaching implications for disabled employees. It serves as a stark reminder that employers must adhere to ADA regulations and provide necessary accommodations. For employees, this case underscores the importance of knowing and asserting their rights in the workplace.

Protecting Your Rights

If you or someone you know has experienced similar discrimination, it is essential to take action. Consulting with an employment attorney can provide valuable guidance and help protect your rights under the law. An attorney can assist in navigating the complexities of the ADA and ensure that justice is served.

The Importance of Legal Protections

The ADA and other federal laws provide crucial protections for disabled employees. These laws are designed to ensure that all employees have equal opportunities and are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace. Understanding these legal protections is essential for both employees and employers.

Educating Employers

Employers must be educated about their responsibilities under the ADA and other relevant laws. Providing reasonable accommodations and respecting employees’ rights are not just legal requirements but also ethical obligations. Employers who fail to meet these standards risk severe legal and financial consequences.

Financial Assistance for Employers

Employers may worry about the costs associated with providing accommodations under the ADA, but various financial assistance options are available to help offset these expenses. One such resource is the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), which offers tax incentives to employers who hire individuals from targeted groups, including those with disabilities. Additionally, the Disabled Access Credit provides a tax credit for small businesses that incur expenses for making their facilities accessible, including the cost of installing ramps, modifying restrooms, or purchasing adaptive equipment. The Barrier Removal Tax Deduction allows any business to deduct expenses related to removing architectural and transportation barriers. By taking advantage of these financial programs, employers can foster an inclusive workplace without bearing a significant financial burden.

Steps to Take if You Face Discrimination

If you believe you have been discriminated against due to a disability, there are several steps you can take. First, document the incidents and gather any evidence that supports your claim. Next, file a complaint with the EEOC or your local fair employment practices agency. Finally, consult with an employment attorney to explore your legal options.

Seeking Legal Advice

An employment attorney can provide invaluable assistance in navigating your case. They can help you understand your rights, gather evidence, and represent you in legal proceedings. Taking prompt action is crucial to ensuring your rights are protected and achieving a favorable outcome.

Building a Support Network

Dealing with workplace discrimination can be challenging, but having a strong support network can make a significant difference. Reach out to friends, family, and support groups for emotional support and practical advice. Connecting with others who have faced similar challenges can provide encouragement and valuable insights.

Resources for Support

Numerous organizations and support groups are dedicated to helping disabled employees. These resources can offer guidance, advocacy, and a sense of community. Utilizing these resources can empower you to take action and protect your rights.

  1. Job Accommodation Network (JAN)

    JAN provides free, confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and employment issues related to disability. Their expert consultants can help disabled employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities.

  2. Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF)

    DREDF is a leading national civil rights law and policy center directed by individuals with disabilities and parents who have children with disabilities. They offer resources and advocacy to protect the rights of disabled employees.

  3. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

    The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination, including disability discrimination. They offer guidelines, fact sheets, and other helpful resources on their website.

  4. American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD)

    AAPD works to increase the economic power and influence of people with disabilities. They provide various resources, including career and leadership programs that can empower disabled employees in the workplace.

  5. National Organization on Disability (NOD)

    NOD focuses on increasing employment opportunities for disabled individuals. They offer comprehensive resources and services to help navigate workplace challenges and promote an inclusive work environment.

  6. Local Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Agencies

    VR agencies offer services to help disabled individuals prepare for, obtain, maintain, or regain employment. Services can include career counseling, job placement assistance, and training programs.

Utilizing these resources can empower you to take action and protect your rights in the workplace.

The Path Forward

The judgment against Didlake, Inc. marks a significant victory for disabled employees and serves as a reminder of the importance of legal protections. Moving forward, it is essential for both employees and employers to remain vigilant and proactive in ensuring a fair and inclusive workplace.

Taking Action

For employees, understanding and asserting your rights is crucial. For employers, providing reasonable accommodations and respecting employees’ rights are fundamental to maintaining a positive work environment. Together, we can work towards a future where all employees are treated with dignity and respect.

Conclusion

The Didlake, Inc. case highlights the serious consequences of failing to comply with the ADA and the importance of protecting the rights of disabled employees. By understanding and asserting your rights, seeking legal advice when necessary, and connecting with supportive resources, you can take meaningful steps to ensure a fair and inclusive workplace. If you or someone you know has experienced discrimination, do not hesitate to take action and seek the justice you deserve.

For those looking for further assistance, consider consulting with an employment attorney or reaching out to organizations dedicated to advocating for disabled employees. Together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all.

Healthcare Services Group settles English Only Rule Discrimination Lawsuit

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Healthcare Services Group, Inc., a company that offers housekeeping and other services to healthcare facilities and has 35,000 employees across 48 states, has reached an agreement to provide compensation and corrective measures to an employee following an investigation.

The case involved a female employee working as a “light housekeeper” at a nursing home in Concord, California, who alleged that the company prohibited her from speaking Spanish while at work. The investigation confirmed the existence of an “English-only” rule, a policy that, if enforced without justification by business necessity, constitutes a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“Restrictive language policies are only allowed if they are required to ensure safe or efficient business operation and is put in place for nondiscriminatory reasons. Client relations and customer preference do not justify discriminatory policies,” said Rosa Salazar, acting director of the EEOC’s Oakland Local Office.

Title VII prohibits national origin discrimination unless there is a business necessity, making “English Only” policies a violation of federal law. Furthermore, these policies are considered discriminatory because they negatively impact workers who speak English as a second language, treating them differently when they use their native language and subjecting them to reprimands or other consequences.

Following the investigation, a settlement was reached after the parties engaged in a pre-litigation conciliation process. As part of the settlement, Healthcare Services Group will provide monetary damages to the housekeeper and offer training for all California employees, as well as specific training for California managers and human resources personnel.

The company also agreed to revise its California policies to explicitly state that employees not involved in patient care are not restricted in the languages they speak at work and have the right to use their preferred language. These policies will be issued in English, Spanish, and other languages spoken by 5% or more of its California workforce. Additionally, the company will remove English fluency requirements from the light housekeeper job description and post a notice of the agreement for two years.

Iron Hill Brewery to Pay $115,000 in Race Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit

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Federal Agency Charged Restaurant Discriminated and Retaliated Against Black Employee

In a recent settlement, the current federal administration reaffirmed its commitment to protecting employees from workplace discrimination and retaliation. This time, Iron Hill Brewery of Buckhead, LLC and Iron Hill Brewery, LLC, a chain of breweries and restaurants across several states, found themselves in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) spotlight.

According to the settlement, Iron Hill Brewery agreed to pay $115,000 and furnish other relief to settle a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. The suit alleged Iron Hill Brewery discriminated against an African American employee at its Buckhead location.

The employee, a sous chef-in-training, was allegedly dismissed due to his race and for reporting discrimination against women and Hispanic colleagues. An unmerited disciplinary action was swiftly followed by termination.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, such alleged conduct is prohibited. This significant law prevents employers from carrying out retaliation for engaging in protected activity and discrimination based on race.

Protected activity, as outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, encompasses various actions taken by employees to oppose discrimination or participate in proceedings related to discriminatory practices. In this particular case involving Iron Hill Brewery, the protected activity refers to the sous chef-in-training reporting instances of discrimination within the workplace. Specifically, the employee raised concerns about discriminatory behavior targeting women and Hispanic colleagues, which is considered a protected act under federal law. By voicing these grievances, the employee engaged in a legally protected activity aimed at confronting and challenging unfair treatment. Consequently, when the employee faced unwarranted disciplinary action and subsequent termination, it was alleged to be retaliatory—an illegal response to their protected activity of reporting discrimination.

In addition to the considerable financial settlement, the decree necessitates nationwide training for Iron Hill Brewery employees centered on Title VII’s prohibitions against race discrimination and retaliation. Iron Hill Brewery must also institute an anti-retaliation policy providing examples of unlawful retaliation in the workplace. These moves illustrate the seriousness of the situation and the serious implications of breaching Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The EEOC Atlanta District Office Regional Attorney, Marcus G. Keegan, opined, “This settlement sends a strong message that the EEOC will continue to vindicate the rights of individuals with the courage to come forward to report discrimination against themselves or others in the workplace.”

This case serves as a stark reminder of employees’ rights. If you believe that you or someone you know may be experiencing or witnessing race discrimination, harassment, or retaliation in the workplace, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice. Reach out to a lawyer in your area who specializes in employment law. Remember, everyone deserves a respectful and fair working environment.

Disability, Genetic Information Discrimination Suit Settled for $515,000

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Factor One Source Pharmacy Pressured Employees and Applicants to Fill Expensive Hemophilia Prescriptions with the Company

Factor One Source Pharmacy, LLC has agreed to pay $515,000 and provide other relief to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for disability and genetic information discrimination. The lawsuit alleged that the pharmacy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) by pressuring employees and applicants to use its pharmacy services for expensive hemophilia prescriptions. The company unlawfully inquired about employee disabilities and genetic information and targeted individuals with hemophilia or family members with hemophilia for recruitment.

Employees who refused to use the company’s pharmacy services for hemophilia medications were reportedly fired or laid off, while those who complied retained their jobs, even if they had poorer performance reviews. This alleged conduct violated the ADA and GINA, which prohibit discrimination based on disability and genetic information.

The EEOC filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, and the settlement requires the new owners of Factor One to pay $515,000 in monetary relief, among other provisions. The company is also prohibited from employing or contracting with its prior CEO and owner, taking adverse employment actions against employees based on their non-use of the company’s pharmacy, and must provide ADA and GINA training to employees and conduct a survey on their treatment in the workplace.

EEOC officials emphasized the importance of preventing unlawful discrimination in the specialty pharmacy industry and highlighted that federal laws prohibit discrimination based on familial connections, such as family medical history under GINA and discrimination based on an employee’s relationship or association with an individual with a disability under the ADA.

Understanding Employee Rights: Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

McDonald's franchise pays $1,997,500 in sexual harassment lawsuit.

The battle against sexual harassment in workplaces is one we should all be fighting. This provides a healthy work environment and supports the smooth operation of businesses. To illustrate this, I want to delve into the specifics of a recent case, EEOC v. AMTCR, Inc., AMTCR Nevada, Inc., and AMTCR California, LLC.

In this case, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) accused these affiliated entities that own and operate 21 McDonald’s franchises of subjecting male and female employees to sexual harassment. The harassment resulted in the constructive discharge of some employees. The charging party was a teenager who was subjected to sexual comments and advances, along with unwanted touching. Despite the complaints the charging party and his mother lodged, management took no corrective action. Instead, a manager suggested that the charging party should take the conduct as a compliment.

“Young workers are particularly vulnerable to harassment in the workplace as they are more likely to be unaware of their rights and can be taken advantage by their employer,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office

Regrettably, this was not an isolated incident. Other male and female employees, some of them teenagers as well, were subjected to groping, sexually explicit comments, and sexual requests from coworkers and managers. A particularly disturbing event revealed that one male general manager conditioned hire on the acquiescence of male applicants to dates and sexual activity.

This case was resolved with a 3-year consent decree, providing $1,997,500 to 41 individuals and equitable relief. Nonetheless, it brings to light the drastic consequences of workplace sexual harassment and the subsequent legal actions that can ensue.

The law protects employees from sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the law, “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer… to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin…”

The EEOC v. AMTCR case demonstrates how crucial it is for employers to foster a safe and respectful work environment. This includes having strict measures in place to prevent, address, and punish any form of sexual harassment. After all, every employee has a right to a workplace free of harassment and discrimination.

Celebrating Our LGBTQIA+ Community!

Helmer Friedman LLP celebrates Pride Month with our LGBTQIA+ community.

LOVE  *  RESPECT  *  FREEDOM  *  TOLERANCE   *  EQUALITY  *  PRIDE

The Power of Class Action Lawsuits: Merrill Lynch’s $20 Million Settlement on Racial Discrimination

Class action lawsuits allow the average employee to band together and get justice from large powerful corporations.

Class action lawsuits are often seen as the vehicle of justice for the average person, allowing individuals to band together to hold even the most formidable, seemingly untouchable companies to account for their actions. A recent case involving Merrill Lynch, a Wall Street brokerage titan, has brought this to light, with the company agreeing to pay nearly $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against its Black financial advisers.

This lawsuit claims that African American advisers employed by Bank of America-owned Merrill received less compensation and fewer promotions than their white counterparts. Furthermore, these employees were terminated at higher rates with fewer opportunities for advancement due to discriminatory practices entrenched in the company’s culture.

The repercussions of such systemic violations of African-American employees’ rights had to be addressed. The suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida by four former Merrill advisers has set a precedent that even the biggest corporations can be held accountable for racial discrimination in the workplace.

Merrill has agreed to pay $19.95 million — beyond attorney fees and administration costs—to compensate those affected. The settlement is set to benefit approximately 1,375 eligible class members. A judge is yet to approve this settlement, but Merrill has also agreed to “programmatic relief” that includes reviews of diversity practices and pay equity analyses.

Bank of America has stated that the settlement allows them to focus on supporting Black financial advisers and their clients. Over the past decade, they have implemented policies and programs to improve diversity and inclusion. This initiative has resulted in an over 40% increase in the number of Black financial advisers at Merrill and a significant upturn in team representation.

The case against Merrill Lynch is not an isolated incident. They have faced similar allegations in the past, resulting in a $160 million settlement in August 2013. These cases underscore the power of class action lawsuits in ensuring even the most powerful entities are held accountable for their actions.

In the fight against race discrimination, class action lawsuits prove time and again that no company is too large or too powerful to be immune from legal recourse. This not only brings justice for those wronged but also forces companies to examine and modify their practices to ensure a more inclusive and equitable workplace.