A worker on a data center project for Facebook parent company Meta in Utah was fired after admitting to tying a noose at the worksite where racist graffiti had also been found months earlier.
The graffiti, written on a portable toilet in November, had threatened a “kill a [racial slur] day.” Both incidents prompted contractor M.A. Mortenson Co. to temporarily halt work at the Eagle Mountain site. It had offered a $100,000 reward for information to help identify the person responsible for the noose.
“Mortenson’s priority is the safety and welfare of our team members and everyone on our projects,” the company said in a statement. “Along with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office, we have been investigating a noose recently found at the Eagle Mountain project site. We stopped work on the project to immediately and directly address this matter with all team members and project partners, and to ensure the well-being of our workforce.”
The worker who left the noose was an employee of Southland Industries, a large mechanical, electrical and plumbing subcontractor on the project. The companies did not name the fired worker, but said the individual voluntarily came forward and was remorseful.
“Southland has long maintained zero-tolerance policies for any forms of discrimination, racism or harassment,” the company said in a statement.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon, public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office, says authorities don’t anticipate filing any charges.
Several cases of racist graffiti and nooses at construction sites have gained attention in the past few years, although it’s not clear whether they are part of a new trend or simply receiving more notice amid increased attention to racial discrimination.
Last year, work on a warehouse project for Amazon in Connecticut was temporarily halted after eight nooses were found on the site within a month, ENR previously reported. In another case, someone wrote racist graffiti in the office of an African-American foreman working on an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center in 2020, prompting an internal investigation by the project team.
Work on two Facebook data centers was paused following similar incidents in 2020, according to local news outlets in Iowa and Ohio. In most of these cases, the people responsible were not publicly identified.
A Meta spokesperson said in a statement that the company is working with its general contractors to implement measures that will help prevent racist acts at its project sites. Meta has launched a diversity and inclusion campaign for its U.S. data center construction sites, and it requires general contractors on the projects to adhere to a code of conduct free of harassment and discrimination.
Meta’s billion-dollar-plus Eagle Mountain data center broke ground in 2018 and opened last year. Even before completion, the company announced it would expand the center with two more buildings. It anticipates as many as 1,500 workers contributing to the project. Mortenson estimates the current work on the data center will be completed in 2023.