EEOC Files Lawsuit Against Janitorial Company for Race Discrimination

By Michael Klazema on 7/28/2017
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed a lawsuit against a large Tampa-based janitorial company, alleging racial discrimination in employment. The allegations include scrutiny of the company’s employee background check processes, saying that hiring managers actively tried to use background checks as a means of discouraging blacks from pursuing jobs with the company. Per a press release from the EEOC itself, the janitorial company, Diversified Maintenance Systems, LLC, is also accused of subjecting a black employee “to racial slurs” and “other discriminatory practices.”

The lawsuit does not concern how Diversified Maintenance Systems ran background checks or made hiring decisions based on their findings. Instead, the lawsuit alleges that hiring managers at the company were instructed to treat African-American candidates differently during the application and interview process. Specifically, hiring managers were told to emphasize the company’s use of criminal background checks in hiring when speaking to black candidates. The EEOC says this process was in place to tell black candidates that they need not apply if they had criminal records. The Commission also claims that the practice caused several African-Americans to withdraw their applications with the company.

The EEOC lawsuit alleges that Diversified Maintenance’s rhetoric about background checks had a disparate impact on African-American candidates. Therefore, the EEOC says that the practice qualifies as employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to the background check issue, the EEOC lawsuit identifies various other discriminatory hiring practices in which Diversified Maintenance Systems allegedly took part. For instance, the lawsuit claims that Diversified instructed district managers not to hire African-American employees without “special permission.” In a case where a black man was hired to a job with the company, the lawsuit alleges that he was subject to racial slurs and other harassment, despite his supervisory role. When the man complained about the discriminatory treatment to upper management, Diversified allegedly demoted him without taking action to curb the harassment issue.

Diversified Maintenance is a large company, with clients in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The EEOC allegations say that the company’s racial discrimination practices were limited to “Maryland and the Washington D.C. and Philadelphia metropolitan areas.”

The EEOC is seeking “injunctive relief” with this lawsuit. Said another way, the Commission expects Diversified Maintenance to cease its discriminatory practices and put policies in place to ensure equal employment opportunities for black candidates. Also, the lawsuit seeks “monetary remedies” to Dana Fields, the supervisor above, subject to racial harassment and demotion by the company, as well as to “a class of aggrieved African-American applicants.”

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