The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced this week that a federal construction contractor providing environmental remediation and restoration services has settled allegations of sexual harassment, retaliation, and interference with a federal investigation. The Maryland-based company agreed to pay $112,573 in back wages to 14 discharged employees and make job offers as opportunities become available to 14 Hispanic workers. The company also agreed to self-monitoring, training, and hiring an outside party to evaluate and possibly revise its equal employment opportunity and no-harassment policies.
After initiating a compliance review of the construction contractor in May of 2012, OFCCP learned of sexual harassment allegations through a “workers’ outreach forum.” OFCCP expanded the scope of its review to investigate these claims. As a result, OFCCP alleged that nine employees were fired after complaining of sexual harassment and that the company fired another five employees to prevent OFCCP from interviewing them. All 14 of the fired employees were Hispanic—seven men and seven women.
This announcement—the second one involving a construction contractor in the last few months—is further proof that OFCCP is ratcheting up enforcement in the construction industry. Just this morning, OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu, in her address at the 31st Annual National Industry Liaison Group Conference, announced that changes to help ensure equal employment opportunity for females and minorities in the construction industry will happen in the “months ahead.”
Compliance reviews of construction contractors and subcontractors are changing. The days of quick reviews seem to be over. Most construction reviews now involve a minimum of two on-site visits and an intensive review of employment activity and utilization hours at the desk audit stage. Construction contractors and subcontractors should be prepared for these reviews by ensuring data integrity, maintaining appropriate documentation, and conducting equal employment opportunity and affirmative action training.
Scott Kelly is a shareholder in the Birmingham office of Ogletree Deakins.
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