LOS ANGELES – Orange County, California-based construction contractor Goodsell/Wilkins, Inc., violated federal law when it subjected a class of Latino employees to harassment and retaliation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced in a federal lawsuit filed today.
The EEOC alleged that since at least 2019, Goodsell/Wilkins’ supervisors subjected Latino construction workers to national origin harassment which included but was not limited to: referring to them as “wetbacks” and “Home Depoteros,” mocking them if they could not speak English, and telling them to go back to where they came from. The harassment also included anti-Latino graffiti found in portable restrooms on Goodsell/Wilkins’ worksites, which included abusive terms and offensive imagery demeaning to Latino workers.
The EEOC’s suit also stated that a supervisor would sexually harass the Latino workers by referring to them as whores and using other derogatory slurs, showing them explicit pictures, and threatening sexual assault.
The EEOC charges that Goodsell/Wilkins not only failed to address the harassment even after it was reported, but instead chose to terminate one employee for complaining and constructively discharged several others.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (EEOC v. Goodsell/Wilkins, Inc., Case No. 8:22-cv-01765) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation agreement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for a class of Latino employees, as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination in the workplace.
“National origin, race, and sex harassment remain a persistent problem in the construction industry,” said Anna Park, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “We understand that some may be fearful about coming forward; however, we strongly encourage you to do so. Change cannot happen without those brave enough to speak out, and change in this industry, with its persistent issues, is long overdue.”
“Creating an equitable workplace starts with clearly addressing harassment and holding those who participate in it accountable,” said EEOC’s Los Angeles District’s acting director Christine Park-Gonzalez. “Failing to do so, and worse, retaliating against individuals who report such behavior, runs afoul of the law.”
Preventing systemic harassment of workers is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The EEOC held a Commission hearing on discrimination and harassment in the construction industry on May 17, 2022. To view this hearing, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwtVrzSHSXY.
For more information on national origin harassment, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/national-origin-discrimination. For more information on harassment, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/harassment.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.