WASHINGTON — Fort Myer Construction Corp. has agreed to settle charges that it violated Executive Order 11246 by failing to provide equal employment opportunities to employees and job applicants at 413 construction sites in the D.C. metropolitan area.
An agreement reached by the federal contractor and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs resolves allegations that between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2010, the company discriminated against 27 qualified women and 136 qualified African Americans who applied for jobs as laborers, and unfairly terminated eight African American skilled laborers. It also resolves pay discrimination charges stemming from Fort Myer Construction's practice of assigning equally qualified workers performing the same jobs to projects paying different hourly rates, some with fewer work hours. This resulted in lower wages for 44 African American and 156 Hispanic laborers.
"Strong enforcement and vigilance are critical to opening doors of opportunity for more women and minorities in the construction industry, ensuring that all workers get an equal shot at getting to work on the highest-paying projects," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu.
OFCCP's investigation of Fort Myer Construction began in January 2011 during the agency's review of companies involved in constructing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's consolidated headquarters in southeastern D.C. Because that project is valued above $25 million and will last more than a year, this undertaking has been designated by the Labor Department as a Mega Construction Project, which is a priority area for OFCCP. More than 300 workers were interviewed over the course of the compliance evaluation, which focused on Fort Meyer Construction's employment practices in 2010.
"Getting those workers in the door and keeping them is going to take more than improved applicant tracking and better pay policies," said OFCCP Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Michele Hodge. "It's going to take a concerted effort by Fort Myer Construction's leadership to change a culture that devalues too many workers."
During their investigation, OFCCP compliance officers received more than 30 phone calls alerting them to charges of harassment, intimidation, threats and coercion at work. The agency discovered that supervisors at Fort Myer Construction used hostile and derogatory language toward African American and Hispanic employees, as well as a disabled veteran. The supervisors sexually harassed and tried to date female subordinates. African American women were locked out of restroom facilities and had feces left in their work trucks. A company vice president tried to interfere in OFCCP's investigation by discouraging Hispanic employees from talking to agency inspectors conducting an onsite review. Even a female investigator from OFCCP was subjected to inappropriate sexual jokes by a superintendent while at a Fort Myer Construction work site.
Under the terms of the settlement, Fort Myer Construction will pay $900,000 in back wages and interest to 371 class members and make job offers to seven women and 30 African Americans from that class as laborer positions become available. The company has also agreed to undertake extensive training and monitoring measures to ensure that all its employment practices – including hiring, termination and compensation – fully comply with the laws enforced by OFCCP.
D.C.-based Fort Myer Construction builds, repairs and maintains streets, roads, bridges and underground utilities. In 2010, the company received more than $400 million in federal funds for work on 155 construction projects in the D.C. area. Some of its largest contracts that year were with the U.S. Department of Transportation, General Services Administration, Navy Department, National Park Service and Smithsonian Institution.
In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. These three laws require that those who do business with the federal government, both contractors and subcontractors, follow the fair and reasonable standard that they not discriminate in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. For more information, visit http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.