Last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a hearing on what witnesses describe as “severe and pervasive discrimination in the construction sector” against women and minorities. Witnesses described instances of exclusionary employment practices, harassment, and even sexual assault involving persons not traditionally employed in the construction industry.
EEOC commissioners noted expanded opportunities for construction companies and employees presented by the recently passed federal infrastructure legislation. This hearing may indicate an effort by the EEOC to initiate a special enforcement program for the industry. Such an initiative could include systemic investigations involving employers suspected of exclusionary hiring policies or those that permit discrimination or harassment against workers in protected classifications. The EEOC could also use its litigation resources to pursue claims against employers considered to have violated Title VII and related laws.
Now would be a good time for members of the construction industry to proactively review their hiring and other policies to determine if they have potential exposure to civil rights claims. Industry members could also increase managerial and employee training to emphasize legal requirements as well as their expectations with regard to equal employment opportunity practices.