Attorney General James Delivers $1.5 Million to Survivors of Sexual Harassment and Retaliation in Construction Industry
18 Former Employees, Mostly Women of Color, Experienced
Sexual Harassment by Trade Off Employees and Managers
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that 18 former employees, who experienced sexual harassment and workplace retaliation at a Long Island-based construction company, were awarded $1.5 million. The agreement also establishes a fund for other workers who also experienced sexual harassment at the company. An investigation into Trade Off, LLC and Trade Off Plus, LLC (collectively Trade Off) revealed a pattern of severe sexual harassment against female employees over the course of at least four years and retaliation against many of these workers when they complained about the harassment.
This marks the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) first agreement regarding sexual harassment in the construction industry, which has a purported history of sexual misconduct and gender discrimination in its workforce.
“All employees deserve to work in an environment where they are valued and respected and not subjected to harassment,” said Attorney General James. “Today’s agreement will end Trade Off’s deplorable and unlawful treatment of its female employees and provide affirmative relief to the brave women who came forward. My office remains committed to seeking justice on behalf of workers and mandating accountability on the part of employers. Sexual harassment will never be tolerated, not in construction and not in any other industry.”
The OAG’s investigation found that Trade Off, a company that provides non-union, general labor at construction sites, engaged in severe sexual harassment and retaliation against workers who were primarily women of color. Interviews conducted with witnesses and reviews of substantial documentary evidence revealed that at least 16 women were harassed because of Trade Off’s failure to prevent or adequately respond to sexual harassment at its worksites. Additionally, at least 12 workers were fired after they complained of harassment against themselves or their coworkers.
Female employees reported quid pro quo harassment by managers demanding sexual acts for pay and overtime opportunities, physical and verbal harassment by male employees, and instances of managers and other workers sending explicit photos and videos. Additionally, Trade Off managers failed to take adequate action in response to complaints, and in fact, repeatedly protected harassers from punishment.
In addition to the monetary compensation, as part of the agreement, Trade Off agreed to employ an outside monitor for three years, and will create a new, more complete sexual harassment policy subject to review by OAG, and report regularly to OAG regarding its implementation of policies and investigation of any future sexual harassment complaints.
“It’s important for me to be able to speak out and shine a light on the harassment that women in the construction industry encounter on a daily basis,” said Jaleesa McCrimmon, a former employee of Trade Off. “No one should be harassed and mistreated for trying to do their jobs. I thank Attorney General Letitia James and her team for understanding that, and for fighting hard to make a difference.”
“What I and other former employees of Trade Off went through speaks to the often sexist and abusive nature of the construction business,” said Tierra Williams, a former employee of Trade Off. “No industry should promote behavior that serves to demean women. I'm hopeful that this settlement puts every company like Trade Off on notice, and inspires women in the workplace to stand up against injustice. Thank you to Attorney General Letitia James for taking on this issue."
This matter was initially referred to OAG by the Mason Tenders District Council/Laborers Local 79.
“We commend the Attorney General’s leadership in fighting back against harassment and retaliation in construction,” said Robert Bonanza, business manager for Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York and Long Island. “Most importantly, we thank the former employees of Trade Off for their courage in coming forward to expose the horrific treatment they experienced while on the job. Attorney General James and these brave former employees have sent their message loud and clear: Sexual harassment in the construction industry is pervasive, but the state of New York will always be on the side of the workers.”
This case was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Michael O’Keefe Cowles and Jessica Agarwal under the supervision of Labor Bureau Civil Enforcement Section Chief Ming-Qi Chu, Deputy Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet, and Bureau Chief Karen Cacace. The Labor Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.