Discrimination Lawsuit Filed: Alleged Racial Discrimination on Sewer Project

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According to claims made by African-American workers (and the union that supports them), three white supervisors on the largest public works project in Akron history used racist language, discriminated against their black employees by assigning them “stupid” work that paid less than other assignments, and retaliated when employees complained about the harassment by firing them.

The racial discrimination complaint was filed in Summit County Common Pleas Court on behalf of three African American workers from Akron and another African American worker from Copley. All four workers were hired by Kenny Construction and the Obayashi Corporation. They were hired for the $184 million Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel (OCIT) project. The project to install a huge concrete-lined sewer pipe requires workers to bore a mile under downtown Akron.

The plaintiffs in the case allege that managers, supervisors, and representatives of the company and project as a whole referred to African-American workers using the n-word, called them “worthless,” referred to them as “yard dogs,” “them boys,” “the blacks in the back,” and “stupid.”

The company’s parent company, Granite Construction Inc. responded to the allegations stating that the Kenny/Obayashi team is proud of the work they have completed on the project and the support they have received from the community and that they deny all allegations made in the complaint. They also stated that they intend to vigorously defend the company against what they referred to as “false and inflammatory” accusations.

Obayashi is one of the largest builders in Japan. On the Obayashi website they describe their company as fulfilling their corporate responsibilities as the best way to “bring smiles to people” and they make this the goal of their overall business activities as they strive to meet the expectations of the public and respond to their stakeholders’ needs.

According to the discrimination lawsuit, the black employees on the sewer project were subject to “racial belittling” and were typically assigned to “yard crews” excluded from work opportunities available to others on the job site like working on the tunnel boring machine. Workers assigned to work on the tunnel boring machine were allowed overtime hours to work around the clock when the project fell behind schedule due to late arrival of equipment, etc. According to allegations made in the overtime lawsuit, management reserved most of the positions on the boring machine for Caucasian employees.

Black employees who spoke up about the situation and the discrimination occurring on the job site were allegedly fired.

If you are not being paid overtime wages you are due or if you need to file an overtime lawsuit, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik and DeBlouw LLP today.