USC general contractor sued for racial harassment

A general contractor of the USC Village Redevelopment Project subjected Black and Latinx, including Mexican, workers to racial harassment and propagated a hostile work environment through  retaliation for complaining about the harassment, according to a complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Tuesday. 

The construction company, Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Co., has been employed by the University since 2015 for the project. Beginning that year, Black and Latinx workers were subject to harassment in the form of racist graffiti and remarks, which created an “abusive and hostile work environment,” according to the lawsuit.

“Starting in 2015, Defendant Hathaway knew or should have known of the racially offensive and derogatory graffiti / comments and the racially hostile work environment at the U.S.C. Project,” the complaint read. “Starting in 2015, the racially-offensive and derogatory graffiti was prevalent in the portable toilet facilities which were frequented by Defendant’s managers. Also, starting in 2015, the Claimants repeatedly complained about the racial harassment either directly to Defendant Hathaway’s management or to the management of their direct employers, the contractors or subcontractors of the U.S.C. Project.”

The EEOC determined in 2018 that there was reasonable cause for a complaint that workers of Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Co., who were either directly employed by the company or were hired by the company’s affiliates, were subjected to harassment based on race and/or national origin. The Commission offered Hathaway to engage in informal methods of remedying the company’s discriminatory practices but reported it failed to do so. 

The complaint moves for an injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in discriminatory practices, policies and programs to ensure compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and monetary compensation, with prejudgment interest, for the harm incurred by the workers — the amount of which is to be determined at trial.