Whiting-Turner pays out $1.2m settlement over racial harassment lawsuit

Mobile phone with website of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on screen in front of logo Image: Timon via AdobeStock (stock.adobe.com)

Construction contractor Whiting-Turner, based in Baltimore, USA, is to pay $1.2 million to a class of black former workers to settle a race harassment and retaliation lawsuit.

The lawsuit was brought against Whiting-Turner by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Whiting-Turner served as the prime contractor for the con­struction of the Google data centre in Clarksville, Tennessee.

From at least May 2018 through the fall of 2019, the EEOC charged that Whiting-Turner subjected black employees who worked at a construction jobsite to a racially hostile work environment.

It also claimed that it retaliated against two employees after they complained about race discrimination.

The discriminatory treatment included referring to black employees as “boy” “m----f-----” and “you.” Other discriminatory behaviour included workers defacing portable toilets with racially offensive graffiti and a noose was displayed in the workplace on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.

The EEOC said that the company failed to investigate the complaints and instead fired two employees after they complained about the discrimination. That was despite the fact that the black employees reported these issues to Whiting-Turner several times.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrim­ination based on race and retaliation for complaining about discriminatory treatment.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit (Case No. 3:21-cv-00753) in US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, after first seeking to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Along with the monetary relief, a two-year consent decree, entered by Chief District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr., requires Whiting-Turner to incorporate a strict prohibition against racial graffiti, racial jokes, racial slurs, racial epithets, and hate symbols into its anti-harassment policy; assign an EEO liaison to each of its construction sites; and conduct semi-annual training on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

EEOC chair Charlotte A. Burrows said, “The allegations in the Whiting-Turner matter are a prime example of the urgent need for the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to eliminate racism in the construction industry.

“I am pleased that the Memphis District Office secured meaningful changes to the employer’s practices and monetary relief for black workers harmed by the discriminatory conduct. Unfortunately, the shocking findings of the EEOC’s investigation in this case are not an isolated occurrence in the industry. The EEOC will continue to use all its tools -- from outreach to vigorous enforcement and litigation -- to address these systemic problems.”

EEOC trial attorney Roslyn Griffin Pack added, “Construction companies must take immediate steps to combat race discrimination on worksites. That action includes making sure its managers and supervisors are trained on Title VII and take prompt action at the first sign of trouble. It is our hope that the injunctive and monetary relief obtained through this lawsuit will serve as a reminder to other construction companies that the EEOC remains committed to eradicating race discrimination in the construction industry.”

In May 2022, the EEOC held a hearing to examine the challenges people of colour and women face in the construction industry. Afterwards, Burrows noted, “The con­struction sector has always been an important component of the American economy. Unfortunately, many women and people of colour have either been shut out of construction jobs or face discrimination that limits their ability to thrive in these careers.”


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Andy Brown Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786224 E-mail: [email protected]
Neil Gerrard Senior Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 7355 092 771 E-mail: [email protected]
Catrin Jones Deputy Editor, Editorial, UK – Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 791 2298 133 E-mail: [email protected]
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