The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's latest construction employer lawsuit targets the Florida operations of a large multi-state paving company.
In a civil complaint filed in federal court in Tampa, the agency claims that 12 Black employees of the Tampa-area unit of Asphalt Paving Systems, based in Hammonton, N.J., were subject to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII of the federal civil rights law.
The firm operates in three other states beside New Jersey and Florida—Pennsylvania, Georgia and Tennessee, according to its website.
According to the complaint, a Black paving crew working alongside or in close proximity to white crews were showered with frequent racial slurs by supervisors and other employees. Crew members were often referred to as "boy" or "the N-word" and made to overhear negative comments about Black people, said EEOC.
EEOC also contends that an Asphalt Paving Systems foreman would often unbutton his shirt to display a "White Pride" tattoo. Other employees wore hats and shirts displaying the Confederate flag, EEOC charged. Its complaint also alleges that white employees and supervisors at times brought guns to the jobsite.
Another part of the complaint accuses the company of deliberately working the Black crew members harder than white counterparts, insisting that they keep busy while white employees were taking breaks. The Black crew was also given worse assignments with longer commutes and directed to work in dirtier conditions on physically harder tasks, EEOC claims.
The complaint also alleges that the company prevented members of the Black paving crew from finding other employment by contacting a future employer and requesting that it not hire them.
Asphalt Paving Systems has not yet filed a formal reply to the complaint. Calls to its office for comment were not returned.
EEOC has targeted construction industry employers as chronic violators of laws that protect employees from racial and sexual harassment and discrimination. In a report issued in May, it found that women and people of color are underrepresented, driven partly by persistent discrimination and pervasive harassment, often involving virulent actions that have included display of nooses.