Construction Company Employees Subjected to Racist Slurs and Fired for Complaining, Federal Agency Charges
TAMPA and ORLANDO, Fla. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it has filed two separate race discrimination lawsuits – one against Alto Construction Co. Inc., a site development and asphalt paving construction company based in the Tampa area, and another against J.A. Croson, LLC, a plumbing and HVAC contracting company based in the Orlando area.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit against Alto, its management regularly used the N-word in front of Black employees. Specifically, the complaint alleges that a white site supervisor told a Black employee that “we say the N-word here a lot” and, despite the employee’s objections, the site supervisor continued to use the N-word on a daily basis. The complaint also alleges that a white division manager humiliated the Black employee by ramming a shovel from the back between his legs. The Black employee objected to the assault and, in response, was fired later that day.
In a completely separate action, the EEOC filed suit against J.A. Croson. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, company management routinely used derogatory slurs in reference to non-white employees. For example, management referred to Black employees by the N-word, “boy,” “biscuit lips,” and “African bastards.” They referred to Hispanic workers as “stupid Mexicans,” “wetbacks,” and “these f--ing Puerto Ricans,” among other things. The EEOC further alleged that J.A. Croson referred to non-white employees as “non-essential” and “useless,” and assigned them the least desirable work tasks. When non-white employees complained of the racial discrimination, J.A. Croson fired them.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suits against Alto (Civil Action No. 8:22-cv-02238) and J.A. Croson (Civil Action No. 5:22-cv-00435) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlements through its conciliation process.
“Title VII makes workplace racial harassment unlawful and provides no exemption for the construction industry,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert E. Weisberg. “We will continue to prosecute claims against employers including those in the construction industry that permit racism, especially by managers, to go unchecked.”
Evangeline Hawthorne, the EEOC’s Tampa Field Office director, added, “We hope these lawsuits will send a message that the EEOC will aggressively investigate employers engaged in race discrimination or retaliation toward members of their workforce – and bring legal proceedings against them when it is necessary.”
The two lawsuits charge the companies with discriminating and retaliating against construction workers based on race. These lawsuits again bring to the forefront and underscore the EEOC’s commitment to addressing race discrimination in the construction industry.
On May 17, 2022, the EEOC held a hearing that examined the severe and pervasive discrimination in the construction industry, including against people of color. The EEOC is committed to combating discrimination in the construction industry. To learn more, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/newsroom/eeoc-shines-spotlight-discrimination-and-opportunities-construction.
For more information on race and color discrimination, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/racecolor-discrimination. For more information on retaliation, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/retaliation.
The EEOC’s Miami District Office is comprised of the Miami, Tampa and San Juan EEOC offices, and has jurisdiction over Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.