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Judge Orders Baltimore-Based Federal Contractor to Pay $960,905 In Back Wages to Resolve Discrimination and Harassment Allegations
BALTIMORE, MD – A judge with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) has ordered WMS Solutions LLC – a Baltimore-based staffing agency and federal contractor specializing in asbestos removal and demolition – to pay $960,905 in back wages, damages and interest to remedy alleged discriminatory hiring and compensation practices. The administrative law judge (ALJ) also ordered the company to implement a zero-tolerance anti-harassment policy and to train all managers and employees on their anti-discrimination obligations.
The ALJ determined that, from February 2011 through January 2012, WMS Solutions LLC violated Executive Order 11246 when the employer intentionally used race and ethnicity as a determining factor in its hiring process, preferring to hire Hispanic laborers and failing to hire white, African American, Asian and American Indian/Alaskan Native laborers. The ALJ found that if WMS Solutions had used a race-neutral selection process, 160 additional hires of non-Hispanic laborers would have occurred during the investigative period. The OALJ ordered WMS Solutions LLC to pay $780,998 to remedy this systemic hiring discrimination.
In addition, the ALJ found the employer failed to provide a workplace free of harassment, intimidation and coercion by recruiting a Hispanic workforce and then knowingly creating an abusive and hostile working environment for them. Employees had informed WMS managers many times about dozens of incidents of physical and verbal harassment against Hispanic employees yet WMS took no action. Employees reported being struck with objects, dragged across the jobsite and punched in the face and chest because of their race and ethnicity.
WMS Solutions LLC also engaged in systematic compensation discrimination, the ALJ determined. Specifically, WMS Solutions LLC steered female laborers to lower-paying job assignments, paid female laborers a lower hourly rate for the same work as male laborers, and assigned fewer hours of work to non-Hispanic laborers. The ALJ ordered WMS to pay $179,907 to remedy this pay discrimination.
The decision follows a department administrative proceeding filed against WMS Solutions LLC after a compliance evaluation by the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
“Federal contractors have a legal obligation to treat both employees and job applicants fairly with regard to hiring and compensation, regardless of their race or gender, as well as a place to work that is free from harassment. WMS did none of these things,” said OFCCP Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Michele Hodge, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
In addition to the $960,905 in wages and interest, the judge ordered WMS Solutions to:
- Develop a corporate-wide, zero-tolerance policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, threats, retaliation and coercion against any employee at any worksite;
- Provide all WMS managers, supervisors and employees annual training on equal employment opportunity, as well as on the identification and prevention of harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or veteran’s status; and
- In no way retaliate, harass or engage in any form of reprisal against any of its employees for opposing harassment or other forms of discrimination, or participating in any investigation or inquiry into allegations of harassment or discrimination.
“This decision goes a long way in showing that contractors cannot hide behind common perceptions of construction worksites to ignore the requirements of equal treatment in hiring, pay and the right to not be abused at work. The harassment reported by the employees working for WMS was horrific,” said Regional Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III, in Philadelphia. “Federal contractors in every business, including construction, are bound by the equal protections for employees and applicants they agree to follow in exchange for a contract with the federal government.”
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 laws, as amended, make it illegal for contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government to discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their compensation or the compensation of others subject to certain limitations, and may not retaliate against applicants or employees for engaging in protected activities. These laws also require that federal contractors provide equal employment opportunities through affirmative action. For more information, please call OFCCP’s toll-free helpline at 800-397-6251 or visit https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.