From 2009-2011, the City University of New York‘s John Jay College of Criminal Justice (John Jay) undertook a huge expansion, including the construction of a new building. Among the many contractors hired for the construction project was Vamco Sheet Metals, Inc. (Vamco), which would become the target of a gender discrimination lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on August 29, 2013.
The John Jay construction site was within the contractually-defined territory of Local 28 of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Union (Local 28), and under the same contract Vamco was defined as an “out-of-town contractor.” Thus, only two workers on the project could be from the company’s home territory, and all others from Local 28. Vamco had to get sheet metal workers from Local 28, which used a ranking system of workers on its “out-of-work list” to choose which workers to send to Vamco.
According to the complaint, Vamco was required to employ a minimum of 6.9% female workers, and during the John Jay project they satisfied this requirement by employing seven female Local 28 members; however, “all but one of them worked for shorter tenures than male co-workers hired in or around the same time.” The commission describes several examples of discriminatory treatment of female sheet metal workers:
One female employee with over a decade of experience was discharged after only five days of work, then denied reinstatement in favor of a male co-worker, and assigned menial tasks such as unloading trucks and fetching coffee which male co-workers were not assigned.
A second female employee, a new mother, was not provided an appropriate breaks or a location where she could express breast milk. She was also denied close, easily-accessible restroom facilities. In the end she was laid off without explanation, after which Vamco immediately hired about 10 male workers.
A third female employee was also forced to use a restroom twelve floors away from her work area, whereas her male co-workers were provide close restroom facilities, and monitored the time she took going to the restroom. She was allegedly told by managers that women workers were “too slow,” “took too long to complete work,” and “low-production,” and the same managers called her and other charging parties “old ladies” and “old hags.”
A fourth female employee was also made to perform menial tasks that men were never asked to perform. She was also required to move a heavy piece of equipment across the jobsite by herself, although no male employees had ever been required to do this and the same piece of equipment required two people to move safely. When local 28 selected this employee to send back to the job site, Vamco rescinded its request for a worker.
The settlement agreement includes a typical combination of injunctive relief, mandatory rule changes and monitoring, and $215,000 in monetary relief. We can hope that Vamco will change its policies based on its experience working on the John Jay project and being forced by local rules to hire and accommodate female workers.
If you believe you have been subject to gender discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.