Industry combats jobsite racism, harassment
8 November, 2022
8 November, 2022
While many in the paint and construction trades bemoan the shortage of new people coming into the industry, the flip side is that oftentimes women, minorities, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community are reticent to come on board because many contracting companies foster, or at least ignore, a culture of hate and harassment hurled at people in those communities.
A series of articles published on Construction Dive highlighted the issue in the industry — which has a significantly higher percentage of white workers than the national average — and discussed steps taken to mitigate the problems and create a more welcoming environment for all.
In October, nearly 2,400 companies participated in the second annual Construction Inclusion Week, which focused on tools and talks to help participants stamp out racism and harassment and deal with issues that arise in their ranks. The article stated that the week-long event, held from October 17-21, was “an industry-wide effort to foster safe spaces for difficult conversations, provide educational insights and promote a more inclusive construction industry.”
In one example cited, a company stopped work on a multi-million-dollar project due to racist graffiti found on the job site. In past years, the company would have just painted over it and moved on, but this time they decided to hold up so it could be investigated.
Anti-bias clauses in contracts
Some companies are including anti-bias clauses in their contracts, which codifies a stance against harassment based on race, sex, gender, transgender status, sexual orientation as well as marital status, mental disability and pregnancy. It requires any firm participating in the project to adhere to these guidelines.
Turner Construction, the country’s largest construction firm and one of the leaders in this movement, reported that with increased efforts, including adding the anti-bias clauses into their contracts, incidents on their watch decreased from about 75 last year to 23 as of October 2022. Much of this was put in place as a result of fallout from the George Floyd incident, which spurred racial harassment nationally at various job sites, the Construction Dive article reported.
Young tradespeople demand inclusivity
An article by Michael Prebil on New America underscores the issue, that while many companies in the trades claim to promote diversity and inclusion, it’s a different story when boots hit the ground, and it discourages many would be tradespeople from entering the business. Women, minorities and members of the LGBTQ communities fear harassment and don’t want to get started, adding to the difficulty in an already short labor market.
The article suggested that by providing workers with tools and ideas on how to respond to such incidents, they could move past it and deal with the issue but continued that in many instances there hasn’t been a “top down” implementation, leaving people at the mercy of unkind treatment with no recourse from the employer. The article concludes by saying, “employers, policymakers, and program leaders must acknowledge harassment and discrimination, learn from emerging best practices, and make clear, meaningful commitments to changing the status quo if the growing national movement for youth apprenticeship is to make real inroads into the skilled trades.”
Employer sued for worker harassment
An example of this recently came to light in a lawsuit filed by the EEOC against a California based construction firm that was accused of mocking Latino workers for poor English, calling them racist names, and telling them to “go back to where they came from.” There was also anti-Latino graffiti on portable restrooms at the worksites; the suit also alleged sexual harassment of Latina employees.
“Creating an equitable workplace starts with clearly addressing harassment and holding those who participate in it accountable,” said EEOC’s Los Angeles District’s acting director Christine Park-Gonzalez in a prepared statement. “Failing to do so, and worse, retaliating against individuals who report such behavior, runs afoul of the law.”
An article published by Narriri Law Group states that harassment due to national origin is less understood than other types of harassment, but that it is prevalent in the construction industry and affects people of many nationalities, for example workers from Spanish-speaking or Middle Eastern countries. Many victims of this type of workplace abuse are fearful of coming forward. However, the article continued, it’s imperative to report such incidents to call attention to the problem.
Clink the link for information on Construction Inclusion Week.