Supervisor Harassed and Retaliated Against Ironworker, EEOC Alleges
NEW ORLEANS - Boh Bros. Construction Co., L.L.C., subjected a former employee to a sexually hostile work environment on a federal post-Katrina bridge repair project and then retaliated against him for complaining, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
The suit (Civil Action No. 09-6460) filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, charged that the company’s site superintendent sexually harassed a subordinate, Kerry Woods. When Woods complained of the harassment, he was involuntarily transferred and ultimately discharged. Such alleged behavior violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the superintendent harassed and taunted Woods, who worked for the company as an ironworker, on the federally-funded I-10 Twin Span bridge repair project in 2006 by engaging in verbal abuse and taunting gestures of a sexual nature. The EEOC suit further claims that the company retaliated against Woods when he complained about the superintendent’s harassment by involuntarily transferring him to the company’s Chalmette, La., facility where he earned less and suffered a significantly greater commute time; refusing to return him to the original work site and be free of the superintendent’s harassment; and by terminating his employment shortly after the adverse transfer.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit after conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary settlement were unsuccessful. In the suit, the EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination and retaliation, as well as back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.
Boh Bros. Construction Co., L.L.C. is a major construction contractor that operates in the New Orleans and south Louisiana areas. The company employs more than 1,500 employees on many projects, including publicly funded post-Katrina rebuilding, repair and expansion projects. The I-10 Twin Span project where the sexual harassment allegedly occurred is located over Lake Pontchartrain between Slidell and New Orleans, La. The company’s Chalmette facility is located in St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans.
Keith Hill, Director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, stated: “This case demonstrates the failure of a major regional contractor to prevent and properly handle a serious matter for the construction industry: male-on-male sexual harassment by a supervisor under difficult and dangerous working conditions. The EEOC will vigorously pursue these types of violations.”
“Under the law, all workers—men as well as women--must be allowed to work free from sexual harassment. When such harassment occurs, workers must be permitted to complain without fear of retaliation. Employers who fail to protect an individual worker from such harassment and retaliation should expect to be sued,” said Regional Attorney Jim Sacher of the EEOC’s Houston District Office whose jurisdiction includes Louisiana.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.