Agency Charges Latino Janitors Harassed, Scrutinized and Terminated
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit today against New York City-based janitorial services giant ABM Industries (NYSE:ABM), charging that supervisors at the company discriminated against Latino janitors working at several commercial buildings in downtown San Francisco, and retaliated against some of these employees after they filed charges with the EEOC.
EEOC’s lawsuit asserts that at least seven Latino janitors suffered discrimination and harassment, including unwarranted terminations, removal from permanent positions, and replacement with less senior individuals who were not Latino. By comparison, non-Hispanic janitors received more favorable treatment. The EEOC’s investigation also revealed that three of the Latino janitors suffered retaliation after filing charges with the EEOC. For example, supervisors would scrutinize their work much more closely and even send them back to redo the job or yell at the janitors.
“The discrimination affected me spiritually and physically -- I lost a lot of weight and could not sleep,” said one janitor who had been removed from his position and replaced. “It affected my entire family, my daughters and my wife, as well as our finances. This was one of the worst experiences of my life. I am glad the EEOC took our case to court.”
Discrimination based on national origin is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which also prohibits retaliating against employees who protest such conduct. The EEOC filed the suit (EEOC v. ABM Industries, Inc., Civ. No. CV09-4593 Zimmerman) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California) only after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation. The suit seeks monetary damages, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and other injunctive relief.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, "Favoring employees of one ethnicity over another is not only illegal but undermines the benefits of a diverse work force. The law, as well as common sense, requires employers to base employment decisions on the skills, experience and merit of individual employees instead of their national origin or ancestry.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “The Commission pays particular attention to cases such as this one that allege retaliation. The EEOC upholds all workers’ rights to file a charge of discrimination by vigorously defending them against acts of reprisal.”
According to the company’s web site, www.abm.com, ABM Industries employs more than 100,000 people, and in 2008 had revenues of over $3.6 billion. In addition to janitorial services, ABM Industries also provides facility, engineering, parking and security services for thousands of commercial, industrial, institutional and retail facilities across the United States, Puerto Rico and British Columbia, Canada.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.