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  Helen Holden
EEOC and Construction Employers
By Helen Holden
Over the past several years, industry leaders in construction have increased the focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (“DEI”) goals for construction companies. For example, in 2018, the Association General Contractors of America released a report on the Business Case for Diversity & Inclusion on the Construction Industry. Since then, a number of construction companies have implemented more formal DEI programs.
In 2022, diversity issues in the industry came to the attention of federal regulators. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a hearing in May, 2022 centered around allegations of race, national origin, and sex discrimination and harassment in the industry. EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows stated at that time that “many women and people of color have either been shut out of construction jobs or face discrimination that limits their ability to thrive in these careers.” Id. Since May, 2022, the EEOC has demonstrated its ongoing focus on the industry. The EEOC’s actions targeting construction companies include filing two lawsuits in Florida, alleging that contractors allowed an atmosphere of racial and ethnic harassment to permeate the workplace. Further, these companies failed to take action when individuals complained about the remarks.
The EEOC has also entered into a number of settlements of prior lawsuits with construction companies following the hearing in May, 2022, in which employers have been required to conduct training, hire workplace monitors, implement new policies, and provide reports to the EEOC. Settlements in these lawsuits ranged from $50,000 to more than a $1 million. The settlements include:
• In one Nevada lawsuit involving allegations of sexual harassment, the EEOC alleged that employees were threatened if they refused sexual advances. The employer, a plumbing contractor and related companies, agreed to pay a class of employees $500,000 to resolve the matter, and further agreed to provide specialized training and to hire an external equal employment opportunity monitor.
• In a Texas lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that four companies involved in oil pipeline construction engaged in discrimination and harassed a number of male employees based on race and national origin, as well as their sex (male). The EEOC also alleged that the companies retaliated against those who complained by firing them. The settlement provides for $1.75 million in relief to ten men,
Construction Law

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