Work has resumed on a $1.5-billion Meta data center project in Nebraska that was shut down on Sept. 19 after two incidences of racist graffiti were discovered on site during the previous week.
One report of racist graffiti was made on Sept. 14 at the site in Sarpy County, Neb.; the second was on Sept. 15 after general contractor Turner Construction, Facebook parent company Meta and others involved in the project had already reiterated to workers a zero-tolerance policy for hate on job sites.
Receiving the second report of graffiti was disappointing, said Christopher McFadden, Turner vice president and spokesperson. “I think that's where the decision was made amongst Turner, Meta and our partners to take a pause and spend [more] time to have some deeper discussions, some thoughtful discussions with everyone on the project,” he said.
Work had resumed by Sept. 22, McFadden said.
Because an investigation into the incidents is ongoing, he would not release any details of what the graffiti entailed. He said there are about 1,300 workers on the site and that graffiti reports had been made to the local sheriff.
These reports come in the wake of other recent racist incidences at Meta job sites including one in March at Eagle Mountain, Utah, in which a worker on a data center project was fired after admitting to tying a noose at the worksite where racist graffiti had been discovered months earlier. Contractor M.A. Mortenson Co. paused work temporarily and offered a $100,000 reward for information to help identify the person responsible for the noose.
McFadden said Turner has not yet decided whether to offer a reward in the latest incidents. He does not believe they are targeted at Meta in particular, but instead are indicative of wider social ills that Turner does not accept or tolerate.
“We are saying it is unacceptable and we are not going to turn a blind eye to defacement of property, or make people feel unwelcome on our projects,” he said.
McFadden said Turner tracks all incidents related to property defacement of any kind on its 9,000 jobs sites across the nation. He declined to provide numbers on how many reports of property defacement it tracks or how many are racially motivated.
He also did not provide information on the percent or numbers of workers at Sarpy that are minority.
Meta spokesperson Melanie Roe reiterated in an email that the company also has zero tolerance for racist acts.
“While this is a challenge facing the entire industry, we’re working with our general contractors to implement measures that will help prevent them at any of our construction sites,” she said. “At the Sarpy County site, we are working closely with Turner Construction and trade leaders to identify the perpetrator(s) of these acts.”
Roe said Meta, with the input of general contractors at data construction sites, has developed a playbook on how to respond to racist incidents, and is working on other anti-hate efforts that will be announced in about a month.
The playbook is intended to provide guidelines and best practices for partners and personnel in the event of a bias-motivated event.
"For example, it provides guidance on what immediate actions must be taken when an incident occurs, including site preservation and notifications," she said. "It also requires our general contractors to designate a diversity, equity and inclusion contact person."
The document evolves as new challenges and possible solutions are identified, Roe added.
In addition, she said all data center general contractors are required to agree to a Responsible Business Alliance Code, which establishes various standards including that all workers are treated with respect and dignity.