Unfavorable Job Assignments May be a Form of Discrimination Under Title VII

Title VII demands that job assignments be based on qualifications and merit, not national origin or skin color, as was reflected in a recent settlement between the EEOC and a Denver-based plumbing and mechanical contractor.

In its lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, the EEOC alleged that the offending employer had systematically assigned Hispanic plumbers to sewer duties in a confined space containing human waste and dangerous gas levels, despite the fact that Caucasian plumbers with similar abilities and experience were not relegated to these less-than-desirable job duties. EEOC v. AMI Mechanical (D. Colo. 2018). Among other claims, it was also alleged that when a Hispanic employee complained, he was told by his supervisor to return to the sewer or otherwise the company would “hire a bunch more … Mexicans” to replace him. The employer also allegedly failed to preserve and/or destroyed work-related reports that were relevant to the EEOC’s discrimination claims.

As evidenced by the settlement wherein the employer agreed to pay $82,500 to the complainant employees and revise its policies, it is vital that employers are actively engaged in rooting out policies that potentially subject a protected class to disparate treatment. Disparate treatment is when “an employer intentionally treat[s] a complainant less favorably than employees with the ‘complainant’s qualifications’ but outside the complainant’s protected class.” Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. (U.S. 2015). This settlement also reinforces the fact that employers may not retaliate against an employee who has made a complaint sounding in national origin discrimination, but instead must take the necessary steps to thoroughly investigate the matter and preserve all relevant evidence in connection with same.

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