A group of black construction workers complained they were subjected to racial harassment from co-workers. They complained of racist graffiti, demeaning language and their tools being stolen.

The employees complained to the on-site project management team. But no action was taken and the graffiti was never removed. Then it got worse. The complainers soon faced retaliation and eventually were fired.

The black employees filed a race discrimination and retaliation claim with the EEOC. The employer tried to shrug it off, basically arguing that construction sites are by nature crude and mean-spirited workplaces.

The company eventually settled the case, distributing $1.5 million to about 20 employees. The EEOC warned that “Even though a construction site may be viewed by some as a ‘rough and tumble’ workplace, discrimination is unlawful regardless of the job site.” (EEOC v. Washington Group Int’l Inc., consent decree approved 3/17/08)

Advice: Don’t believe your industry is somehow exempt from harassment and discrimination laws. Develop effective policies, train everyone how to use them—and hold managers accountable for enforcing them.

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