EEOC sues Schuff Steel for discrimination

Dive Brief:

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a racial and national origin discrimination lawsuit against Phoenix-based Schuff Steel Sept. 28, alleging a White plant manager used the N-word, referred to Black employees as monkeys and screamed “white power” at Black and Hispanic workers.
  • In the suit, EEOC said the plant manager compared Black and Hispanic employees to excrement and stains in a toilet. It further alleged the manager called a Black employee “Rerun,” referring to an overweight African-American character on a 1970s television show and “KFC” after the fast-food franchise. EEOC claims the manager forced the same employee to dance on command.
  • Schuff Steel, the largest structural steel builder in the U.S., denied the claims, saying it had already investigated the incidents. “Contrary to the EEOC’s current allegations of widespread discrimination at its Eloy, [Arizona] facility, the company did not find evidence supporting the original complaint, let alone a pattern of widespread discrimination,” Schuff said in a release. It stated that it looks forward to defending itself in court.

Dive Insight:

The lawsuit is at least the fourth discrimination complaint EEOC has lodged against construction companies in recent weeks. Previously, EEOC filed against California-based contractor Goodsell/Wilkins and Florida contractors Alto Construction and J.A. Croson.

The suit against Schuff alleges the hostile work environment forced both Black and Hispanic workers to quit, and that a Hispanic worker was fired in retaliation after complaining about the manager’s actions. 

The EEOC is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in amounts to be determined at trial, as well as an injunction enjoining the firm from engaging in discriminatory behavior.

In May, EEOC held a hearing in Washington, D.C., to specifically look at the prevalence of discrimination in construction after numerous bias-related incidents, including the display of nooses and racist graffiti, were reported on commercial jobsites in recent years.

An EEOC spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to Construction Dive’s questions about whether the recent lawsuits signal a new chapter in the agency’s focus on the construction industry. But in April, EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows told a gathering of attorneys to expect “renewed attention to tackling systemic discrimination in all forms on all bases.”  

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