Plumbing Company Subjected Latino Employees to Hostile and Segregated Working Environment as Well as Retaliation, Federal Agency Charged
DENVER - AMI Mechanical, Inc., a company that provides plumbing and mechanical contracting services in Colorado, has agreed to pay $82,500 and furnish other relief to settle a national origin and color discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, AMI frequently assigned Joseph Muniz and other Latino plumbers to sewer duty, while white plumbers with equal levels of experience were rarely or never required to work in the sewer. According to the EEOC, the Latino workers were also subjected to offensive ethnic comments and slurs, which, combined with the more frequent assignment to work in the sewer, created a hostile work environment for them. The EEOC's lawsuit also alleged that after Muniz complained about the work conditions, AMI's supervisor retaliated by instructing Muniz to return to the sewer or the company would find more "Mexicans" to replace him. The supervisor also indicated in Muniz's personnel file that he caused "problems" and was not eligible for rehire. Finally, the EEOC alleged that AMI failed to preserve records as required by Title VII.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on national origin or color, which includes unfavorable job assignments and other conditions creating a hostile work environment. Title VII also prohibits retaliatory acts against individuals who may complain about such discriminatory job assignments or terms or conditions at work. The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado (EEOC v. AMI Mechanical, Case No. 1:18-cv-01609-PAB-SKC) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The two-year consent decree resolving the case requires AMI to pay $82,500 to two former employees. In addition, the decree requires AMI to review and revise policies and practices of AMI to assure its employees a workplace free of national origin or color discrimination, prohibit retaliation, and encourage employees to report discriminatory conduct. The company will also provide training to AMI employees in Colorado on preventing discrimination and retaliation. AMI also agreed to post a notice in its AMI facilities and worksites in Colorado notifying employees of the provisions of Title VII and their right to a work environment free of national origin or color discrimination and retaliation.
"Under federal law, employers cannot relegate minority workers to the most undesirable and unhealthy job duties based on race, color or national origin," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District. "And when employees have the courage to report discriminatory treatment, the EEOC will continue to vigorously protect their right to complain without retaliation."
Amy Burkholder, director of the EEOC's Denver Field Office, added, "The right to have employment decisions, including job assignments, made based on qualifications and merit, not national origin or skin color, is clear under the law. We appreciate that AMI has committed to helping the EEOC eradicate this form of discrimination in its workplaces."