NEW YORK – A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs alleges that B&H Foto & Electronics Corp. has systematically discriminated against Hispanic employees and female, black and Asian jobseekers at its Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse.
As a federal contractor, B&H is prohibited by Executive Order 11246 from discriminating in employment on the basis of race, color, sex or national origin and is required to take affirmative action to ensure that equal opportunity is provided in all aspects of employment.
“Federal contractors’ workforces should reflect the diversity of the American people, the people who are ultimately footing the bill for the goods and services that contractors provide to the government,” said OFCCP’s Director Patricia A. Shiu. “B&H fell far short of this responsibility and created deplorable working conditions for employees at its Brooklyn warehouse. This agency is prepared to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that no federal contractors engage in discrimination against women and people of color.”
On its website, the popular photo, video, audio and digital imaging retailer claims to “employ an incredibly diverse group of people.” During its compliance review, however, OFCCP found that, from January 2011 to January 2013:
- B&H’s Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse exclusively hired Hispanic men into its entry-level laborer job group, contributing to the complete exclusion of female employees at the warehouse and the near exclusion of black and Asian employees at the facility.
- B&H promoted and compensated its Hispanic workers at a significantly lower rate than comparable white workers, leading to lower pay, fewer opportunities to advance and a near-total exclusion of Hispanic workers from higher level clerical, managerial and supervisory positions. Hispanic employees were also subjected to racist remarks, degrading comments and harassment at the worksite.
In addition to its findings regarding hiring, compensation and promotion discrimination and harassment, OFCCP found that B&H’s Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse:
- Failed to keep and preserve required personnel and employment records.
- Relegated Hispanic warehouse workers to separate, unsanitary and often inoperable restrooms.
- Failed to provide designated restroom or changing facilities for females.
Filed with the Office of Administrative Law Judges, the complaint asks the court to enjoin B&H permanently from discriminating against female, black and Asian individuals in hiring, and discriminating against Hispanic individuals in promotions and compensation; and to require B&H to ensure and maintain a working environment free of unlawful harassment, intimidation or coercion. OFCCP is also seeking complete relief for the affected class including lost wages, interest, front wages, salary adjustments, promotions and all other lost benefits of employment and a reform of discriminatory policies.
If B&H fails to provide relief as ordered, OFCCP requests that all its government contracts be canceled and that it be debarred from entering into future federal contracts. Headquartered in Manhattan, B&H has supply contracts with the General Services Administration and the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation valued in excess of $46 million.
OFCCP filed its complaint after determining that it was unable to secure a voluntary agreement from B&H to take corrective action. The full complaint can be viewed here.
In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. As amended, these three laws make it illegal for contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government to discriminate in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran, or because an applicant or employee has inquired about, discussed, or disclosed compensation. For more information, please call OFCCP’s toll-free helpline at 800-397-6251 or visit http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.
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Perez v. B&H Foto & Electronics Corp. Docket number: 2016-OFC-00004