Skanska USA Building Pays $95,000 to Settle Racial Harassment and Retaliation

by hr4u.
Feb 28 16

Skanska USA Building, Inc., a building contractor headquartered in Parsippany, N.J., will pay $95,000 to settle a racial harassment and retaliation lawsuit brought by the EEOC.


According to the EEOC's suit, Skanska violated federal law by allowing workers to subject a class of black employees who were working as buck hoist operators to racial harassment, and by firing them for complaining to Skanska about the misconduct. Skanska served as the general contractor on the Methodist Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis, where the incidents in this lawsuit took place. The class of black employees worked for C-1, Inc. Construction Company, a minority-owned subcontractor for Skanska. Skanska awarded a subcontract to C-1 to provide buck hoist operations for the construction site and thereafter supervised all C-1 employees while at the work site.


The EEOC charged that Skanska failed to properly investigate complaints from the buck hoist operators that white employees subjected them to racially offensive comments and physical assault. The EEOC alleged that after Maurice Knox, one of the buck hoist operators, complained about having urine and feces thrown on him at the job site, Skanska cancelled its contract with C-1 Inc., and immediately fired all of its black buck hoist operators. With assistance from the Memphis Minority Business Council's president, Skanska reinstated the contract with C-1 and recalled the black buck hoist operators to work. The white employees, however, continued to subject the buck hoist operators to racial harassment on a daily basis.


According to the joint employer theory, two separate entities are considered to be joint employers if they share or co-determine essential terms and conditions of employment. The Sixth Circuit adopted the joint employer theory in the Title VII context and held that there was sufficient evidence to hold Skanska liable as a joint employer because Skanska supervised and controlled the day-to-day activities of the buck hoist operators.


Besides the $95,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit enjoins Skanska from subjecting employees to racial harassment or retaliating against any employee who lodges a discrimination complaint. The consent decree also requires defendant to provide in-person training on race discrimination and retaliation, maintain records of any complaints of racial harassment, and provide annual reports to the EEOC. Knox intervened in the EEOC's lawsuit and settled his claim separately for an undisclosed amount.