U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Report Details Discrimination in Construction, Offers Solutions

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Chair Charlotte A. Burrows issued a report recently titled, “Building For The Future: Advancing Equal Employment Opportunity in the Construction Industry.” The report provides findings and next steps based on the agency’s enforcement experience, witness testimony presented at the EEOC’s May 2021 hearing on discrimination and harassment in construction and other Commission hearings and academic research.

“The recent historic federal infrastructure investments provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to break down barriers and expand opportunity in the construction industry,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “While discrimination has long been an issue in the industry, we can decide the future. I look forward to working with industry leaders, employers, and unions to help ensure safe and inclusive workplaces for all workers.”

The report includes a brief overview of the construction industry followed by a discussion of employment discrimination based on race, national origin, and sex in the industry through the lens of the Commission’s publicly resolved cases over the past decade. The report’s key findings include:

  • Women and people of color are underrepresented in the construction industry and especially in the higher-paid, higher-skilled trades.
  • Discrimination based on sex, race, and national origin persists and contributes to the underrepresentation of women and workers of color in construction.
  • Harassment is pervasive on many worksites and poses a significant barrier to the recruitment and retention of women and workers of color in the industry.
  • Racial harassment in construction often takes virulent forms and nooses appear with chilling frequency on jobsites across the country.
  • Harassment in construction is a workplace safety issue as well as a civil rights issue.
  • Construction workers who experience discrimination often do not know to whom or how to report violations.
  • Retaliation is a serious problem in the construction industry and hinders efforts to prevent and remedy unlawful discrimination and harassment.

“We recognize the urgent need for new, different, and collaborative approaches to these persistent challenges,” Burrows said. “Although the EEOC has had considerable success in its investigations and litigation on behalf of construction workers who experience discrimination, these enforcement efforts must be coupled with thoughtful and effective preventive measures to ensure the industry’s significant opportunities are equally open to all qualified workers.”

The report outlines next steps for the EEOC, including:

  • Develop industry-specific technical assistance for employers, unions, and workers to help ensure fair hiring practices, equal treatment on the job, and safe and inclusive workplaces;
  • Meet with unions, employers, industry groups, workers, and civil rights organizations to understand their needs, develop coalitions, and provide information about their rights and duties under federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination;
  • Provide information about lawful diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) practices that have been effective in fostering opportunities for all workers;
  • Partner with unions, employers, and community-based organizations to provide effective anti-harassment training to apprentices and workers; and
  • Work cooperatively with other federal, state, and local anti-discrimination agencies to advance equal employment opportunity in the industry.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.