Home Builder Unlawfully Assigned Sales Agents by Race, Federal Agency Charges
ATLANTA – John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, Inc., an Atlanta-based home builder, unlawfully engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against black sales agents, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Wieland intentionally assigned African American sales agents to housing communities based on the race of the surrounding community. The lawsuit charges that these practices resulted in black agents earning significantly less than their white counterparts, who were assigned to housing communities where they sold higher-priced homes.
The EEOC began investigating the employer when a white human resources representative filed a discrimination charge with the agency stating that she was forced to participate in the discriminatory practice or face termination. Michelle Mouser served as a Wieland human resource representative in Atlanta and was responsible for recruiting sales agents to work onsite at new housing communities that were under construction. The company’s management responsible for such hiring expressly stated that the goal was to hire and assign employees whose race corresponded with the predominant population of each community. Therefore Mouser was told that she could not hire qualified African American sales agents for communities with predominantly Caucasian populations.
When Mouser complained about the company’s discriminatory practices to management officials, no action was taken. Because management failed to act and Mouser could not participate in the illegal hiring practices, she felt forced to resign.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Case Number 1:09-CV-1151 filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, Inc. develops land and builds cluster homes, town homes, and upscale single-family homes in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Ga., Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. Wieland also provides remodeling and landscaping services and offers mortgage lending to its customers.
The EEOC is seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Mouser. The agency is also seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the affected African American sales agents for the period beginning in 2003. The lawsuit also seeks injunctive relief designed to stop the discrimination and prevent it from recurring in the future.
“Race discrimination is still an insidious but prevalent form of discrimination,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “All employees are entitled to a workplace free of racial discrimination. More importantly, all individuals, regardless of their race, have the right to the same employment opportunities. No one should be pigeonholed into particular job assignments based solely on race. This lawsuit demonstrates that the EEOC takes such forms of discrimination seriously.”
In Fiscal Year 2008, the EEOC received 33,937 charges alleging race-based discrimination, accounting for 36 percent of the agency's private-sector caseload. Historically, race-based charges have been the most frequent type of filing with EEOC offices nationwide.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on April 30, 2009.
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