EEOC Sues Utah Builder, Alleges Racial Bias

October 8, 2010

Federal authorities are suing a Utah construction company, alleging workplace racial discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused builder Holmes & Holmes Industrial Inc. of Magna firing two black workers who complained about racial taunts and epithets on a job site from managers and other employees.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City seeks back pay with interest for two brothers, Antonio Bratcher and Joby Bratcher, and relief for other black employees of the company.

Holmes & Holmes referred questions to a Salt Lake City lawyer, who said the brothers participated in some of the banter they now call objectionable.

“We will be aggressively defending against the allegations set forth in the complaint,” the lawyer, Ruth Shapiro, said. “We look forward to presenting this to a jury and are confident that when a jury hears the facts — including the Bratcher brothers’ own participation in some of this conduct — we will be vindicated.”

Antonio Bratcher, a pipe fitter, and Joby Bratcher, a welder’s fire watcher — both made $17 an hour — endured two years of taunts and racial epithets from a supervisor and co-workers on a job site at the Chevron oil refinery in North Salt Lake, said Mary Jo O’Neill, a regional attorney for the EEOC.

The brothers put company managers on notice “from the get-go” of racial slurs and jokes, Neill said. Despite that, “the harassment continued,” the agency’s lawsuit says.

At one point, the supervisor, using a racial epithet, said that concrete work was for black workers, O’Neill recounted.

Other Holmes & Holmes employees, including white and Navajo workers, corroborated the brothers’ complaint, she said. The company has about 60 employees.

No phone listing could be found for Antonio Bratcher or Joby Bratcher. A request for comment was relayed through officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“No one should have to put up with this kind of behavior to make a living. It’s unacceptable,” O’Neill said. “It also violates federal and state law.”

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