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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
3-25-10

McGee Brothers Sued by EEOC for National Origin Harassment

Hispanics Subjected to Offensive Comments by Foreman, Federal Agency Charged

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A Monroe, N.C.-based residential masonry company violated federal law by subjecting a class of Hispanic employees to a hostile work environment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, from around January 2006 through at least October 2007, Jose Avelar and other Hispanic employees were subjected to harassment based on their national origin by McGee Brothers Co., Inc. Avelar was employed by McGee Brothers as a bricklayer in the Charlotte area. The EEOC charged that he and other Hispanic employees on Avelar's crew were harassed by their foreman, who is white. According to the EEOC, the harassment included derogatory comments such as "wetback" and "f---ing Mexican." The harassment also included telling the Hispanic workers to work faster than non-Hispanic employees. On one occasion, the foreman is alleged to have thrown a hammer at Avelar while at the same time calling him a "[expletive] wetback.”

National origin harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. McGee Brothers Co., Inc., Civ. No. 3:10-cv-00142) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

The EEOC seeks monetary damages for Avelar and other similarly situated Hispanic employees who were subjected to the harassment. The suit also seeks an injunction to prevent McGee Brothers from engaging in any employment practice that discriminates on the basis of national origin.

“Employers must remember that harassment based on national origin, like race harassment, is against the law,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Companies should have in place a policy that prohibits national origin harassment, as well as a procedure for victims and witnesses to report it and for the employer to promptly respond and rectify it. Workplaces in North Carolina are becoming more and more ethnically diverse, and harassment or other discrimination will not be tolerated by the EEOC."

McGee Brothers, Co., Inc. operates out of ten offices in North Carolina and South Carolina. It employs around 1,400 employees.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.