Are Employees Protected Against Discriminatory Work Assignments?
Having represented victims of employment discrimination for nearly twenty years, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have learned that employers frequently subject workers to discriminatory work assignments. Under the federal anti-discrimination laws, employees are protected against discrimination with respect to all aspects of employment, including hiring, training, wages, work assignments, promotion, discipline, and discharge. A discriminatory work assignment occurs when employers treat some employees differently or less favorably from other employees because of their race, national origin, sex, age, or disability with respect to work assignments. For example, employers are prohibited from making African-American employees do the least desirable job duties. Likewise, employers are forbidden from making Hispanic employees do the most demeaning or dangerous job duties.
Discriminatory Job Duties Violate Federal Law
These principles are illustrated in an employment discrimination lawsuit recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that Hispanic employees were subjected to discriminatory work assignments. In a press release issued on July 23, 2019, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC against AMI Mechanical, Inc. (AMI). In the Consent Decree, AMI agreed to pay $82,500 to settle the national origin discrimination lawsuit.
In 2018, the EEOC filed the national origin discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. AMI Mechanical, Inc., Case No. 1:18-1609, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after initially attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. The EEOC brought the national origin discrimination lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) on behalf of a former employee of AMI, Joseph Muniz (Muniz).
EEOC’s Allegations Of Discrimination At Work
AMI, which is based in Thornton, Colorado, provides plumbing and mechanical contracting services. In March 2014, AMI hired Muniz to work on a project known as the Yorkshire Apartment project. AMI assigned six non-supervisory employees and one “crew lead” employee to work on the project. The “crew lead” for the project was a white man named Jones. Of the six non-supervisory employees assigned to the project, there were Hispanic and three were white.
The Yorkshire Apartment project included work in a confined space in which human waste and dangerous levels of gases were present. On multiple occasions, air monitors used to assess gas levels in the confined space signaled high levels of carbon dioxide. Jones assigned the Hispanic employees to work in the confined space at a disproportionately greater rate than the non-Hispanic employees. Muniz and other Hispanic employees suffered adverse health affects as a result of exposure to carbon dioxide and other gases.
Muniz complained about the working conditions and discriminatory work assignments to Jones and the Safety Director. AMI failed to address the issues raised by Muniz. After Muniz complained, Jones became angry and stated to Muniz that if the Hispanic employees did not want to work in the confined space, he would fire them and “get a bunch more [ ] Mexicans” to replace them. On June 9, 2014, Muniz reiterated his complaints about the working conditions and discriminatory work assignments, and then submitted his two-day resignation notice.
On June 10, 2014, AMI fired Muniz. The termination report stated that Muniz “caused a lot of problems” on the Yorkshire Apartment project and was not eligible for rehire. The termination report further stated that Muniz “called OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] who did inspect and found no problems on the project.” On September 23, 2014, OSHA issued multiple citations finding that AMI violated safety and health regulations on or before June 11, 2014 at the Yorkshire Apartment project.
EEOC Enforces Anti-Discrimination Laws
The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. In enforcing the federal anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC is authorized by federal law to bring lawsuits on behalf of victims of employment discrimination. In a press release issued by the EEOC regarding the case, a Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, Mary Jo O’Neill, stated that under “federal law, employers cannot relegate minority workers to the most undesirable and unhealthy job duties based on race, color, or national origin.” “And when employees have the courage to report discriminatory treatment,” Ms. O’Neill added, “the EEOC will continue to vigorously protect their right to complain without retaliation.”
Free Consultation With Gainesville Labor Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers have represented employment discrimination victims in hundreds of cases before the EEOC. If you have been discriminated against at work or have questions about filing a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Alachua County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.