A photo and electronics distributor headquartered in New York has agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle a federal employment discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Labor Department, alleging discrimination against warehouse staffers.
Through the settlement, some 1,300 workers – current, former and would-be – will be entitled to collect back wages and other benefits. The settlement comes after four years in court, after regulators began investigating numerous claims of employee discrimination on the basis of race and gender.
Specifically, as NBC-4 New York reports, the company was accused of discriminating against certain workers during hiring and promotions. Certain workers were also required to use segregated restrooms and were subject to harassment and racially offensive comments, which management reportedly ignored.
Last year, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs filed a 33-page complaint detailed 15 violations in how workforce at the company’s two facilities were racially divided and then treated disparately. The company reportedly exclusively hired Hispanic men for entry-level positions, in turn discriminating against applicants who were female, Asian and black. Those Hispanic men they did hire, however, were paid much less than white workers who had the same or similar duties, and they were systemically denied promotions. They were also required to use restrooms that were separate and apart from other employees. Complaints regarding racial comments and verbal harassment went unanswered by management.
The distributor/ retailer was in a somewhat unique position because it is a federal contractor. As such, it is required per Executive Order 11246 (originally signed in 1965 and expanded in 1978) to comply with certain regulations as set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or else risk possibly losing its government contract. Contractors subject to this provision are those who are federally-assisted or who do over $10,000 in government business in a single year. These companies are prohibited from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and national origin. The law further requires government contractors to initiate affirmative action to make sure equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of the job.
Of course, such actions (excluding discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity) are already illegal under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the executive order imposes the added penalty of loss of a lucrative government contract. This is likely part of the reason defendant employer in this case chose to settle. A company spokesman said the company settled in order to “avoid the distraction” of an ongoing employment discrimination lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, the firm agrees to supply managers with yearly training on the principles of equal opportunity, as well as how to prevent and address harassment at work. Workplace consultants may also be hired to help correct employment practices and workplace conduct at the company’s warehouses. However, the firm did not concede to any violations of federal rules and regulations.
It’s not uncommon for employers to vigorously fight such actions. There was a great deal of pressure on this company to settle, and while that’s ultimately what they did, that happened after years of resistance. An experienced employment attorney is needed to help you navigate what can be a long and arduous process.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
B&H Photo Will Pay $3.2M to Settle Department of Labor Lawsuit, Aug. 17, 2017, By Claire Voon, Hyperallergic
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