EEOC sues 2 Florida contractors for discrimination

Editor’s note: This story includes descriptions and references to racist incidents that could be disturbing to readers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed separate race discrimination suits against two commercial construction contractors in Florida, alleging supervisors used racial slurs and berated Black and Hispanic employees.

In its suit against Tampa, Florida-based paving contractor Alto Construction, the EEOC alleged a White supervisor told a Black employee “we say the N-word here a lot,” and “don’t get offended.”

In July 2021, a White manager put a shovel between his legs to imitate a penis and rammed it violently into a Black worker’s buttocks, simulating anal intercourse, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit. After the Black worker objected, the suit claims, he was fired.

An unrelated suit against Orlando, Florida-based HVAC and plumbing contractor J.A. Croson alleged company managers referred to Black employees with the N-word, as well as “boy,” “African bastards” and other racial epithets, according to the lawsuit.

Managers called Hispanic workers slurs, including “stupid Mexicans” and “these f—ing Puerto Ricans,” the EEOC said, and referred to non-White employees as “non-essential and useless,” while assigning them less desirable jobs. In December 2020, when two non-White employees complained, the EEOC said, they were fired.

Alto Construction and J.A. Croson did not immediately respond to calls from Construction Dive about the suits.

The EEOC is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial from both firms, as well as injunctions against the companies enjoining them from engaging in discriminatory behavior.

Bias-related incidents, including the display of nooses and racist graffiti, have been widespread on commercial jobsites. Last month, Turner Construction shut down a $1.5 billion Meta data center jobsite when racist graffiti was found on site.

The EEOC held a hearing in May to specifically look at the prevalence of discrimination in construction.

In the EEOC release, Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg said, “We will continue to prosecute claims against employers including those in the construction industry that permit racism, especially by managers, to go unchecked.”

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