PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that Wheeler Construction, Inc., a Phoenix-based construction company, has agreed to settle a national origin harassment lawsuit for $325,000 and other relief on behalf of Mexican workers.
The EEOC’s complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona charged that employees Leonard Lopez and Juan Campos were subjected to harassment based on their national origin (Mexican) and retaliation for complaining about it. The harassment included comments by a supervisor referring to employees as “wetbacks” and “s--cs” and telling Latino employees to “go back to Mexico.” Lopez was born and raised in Glendale, Ariz., and had 20 years of service with Wheeler Construction at the time of the harassment. When Lopez complained to management about the harassment he was fired.
Campos also attempted to complain about the harassment and Wheeler failed to take any action to address it. After an EEOC investigation, the agency found that two additional employees alerted management of the discrimination and no action was taken.
Wheeler Construction agreed to settle the case for $325,000 and substantial remedial relief, including an injunction, posting an anti-discrimination notice, and training its employees on anti-discrimination laws.
“These victims attempted to speak out and address their unlawful treatment, and their complaints were ignored,” said Chester V. Bailey, director for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office. “Employers need to take action when alerted to illegal discrimination in the workplace. No employee should be subjected to such intolerable work conditions.”
Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the Phoenix District Office, said, “The fact that these employees work at a construction site is no excuse for the ethnic slurs that were used against Mr. Lopez and Mr. Campos. We are especially concerned that the outrageous comments were made by a supervisor. Instead of stopping this behavior, the company failed to act appropriately and compounded its culpability by retaliating against its employees.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender (including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age, disability and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.