Maryland Insulation Company Accused of Discrimination

April 3, 2009

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Wednesday that it’s suing a Maryland company, claiming that managers discriminated against four black employees because of their race, and sexually harassed one of them.

An EEOC attorney said the commission’s investigation found that a senior manager at Accurate Insulation LLC often referred to three of the employees as “boy” and told them they “haven’t gotten their 40 acres and a mule'” — a reference to a proposed government reparations act following slavery.

Filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., the suit said that a senior manager also repeatedly made sexually offensive remarks and sexual advances to one of the four employees, a woman.

When the employees complained internally, the company reduced their hours and hired Latinos to replace them, according to the EEOC. Then, when the employees went to the EEOC with complaints of discrimination, the employees’ hours were even further reduced to the point that they were forced to seek other jobs, said Debra Lawrence, acting regional attorney for the EEOC.

One of Accurate Insulation’s owners and the company’s attorney said they were unaware of the lawsuit until The Associated Press contacted them Wednesday.

Owner Bob Burgess denied claims that the company reduced the employees’ hours, and said that they left the company on their own. He also said that the only allegations the plaintiffs made through the EEOC was that the company treated Latinos better than blacks.

“We were able to prove their claims to be totally false,” Burgess said.

“Our company has never, ever condoned any sort of racism, sexism or anything of the sort,” he said. “I’m 100 percent confident that should this go to court, that we’ll be vindicated.”

Accurate Insulation, which also has offices in Hagerstown, Md., specializes in installing garage doors, gutters, fireplaces and insulation. Burgess said the five-year-old company has about 65 employees.

The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, which, based on the size of Accurate Insulation, could amount to $50,000 for each plaintiff, said John Alvin Henderson, a trial attorney with the EEOC. It also seeks back wages and for the company to establish anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and training.

Henderson said that each of the plaintiffs — who are in their 40s and 50s — have since found similar jobs as insulation installers.

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