Labor Dept. sues Balt. company over alleged abuse and discrimination against minority employees
By Zenitha Prince, From the Afro-American Newspaper
A Baltimore-based company that provides staffing for federal contractors allegedly hired Hispanic construction laborers then created and helped to foster hostile working conditions for those workers, according to a lawsuit filed recently by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
WMS Solutions LLC intimidated and discriminated against its Hispanic construction workers and also allowed supervisors of other federal contractors to assault them physically, make racial slurs, and threaten them with deportation, the complaint alleges. The company also allegedly discriminated against non-Hispanic applicants: They intentionally paid female workers less per hour than males and assigned fewer work hours to African-American, Caucasian and female laborers, the suit adds.
“WMS allowed workers it hired to be exploited and abused. It denied job opportunities to qualified workers based on race and ethnicity. It underpaid female workers and assigned fewer work hours based on race and gender,” said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu in a statement. “We have taken action on behalf of these workers.”
At the time the alleged offenses occurred –since at least Feb. 1, 2011—WMS held federal construction subcontracts totaling more than six million dollars for projects involving the General Services Administration, National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of the Navy, according to the Labor Department. The Baltimore company specializes in asbestos removal and demolition and staffs federal contractors working on projects in the Washington, D.C. area.
As a federal contractor, WMS is subject to review under Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. The alleged discriminatory practices highlighted in the current lawsuit came to light during OFCCP’s compliance review of the company. The lawsuit was filed after WMS refused to make restitution to affected workers or otherwise address the issues raised in the review, according to an OFCCP press release.
“OFCCP is prepared to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that no federal contractors and subcontractors engage in discrimination or harassment,” Shiu said.
This is not the first time WMS Solutions has come under legal disrepute. In 2012, the Public Justice Center, a nonprofit that offers legal assistance to the poor, filed a complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging that WMS had violated federal laws requiring them to protect their workers from exposure to asbestos.
WMS put its employees at risk of exposure to the known carcinogen, the complaint alleged, by not providing required protective measures, but instead, charging workers for medical exams, training and gear.