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Balfour Beatty Sued By EEOC, Accused Of ‘Severe And Pervasive’ Sexual Harassment


International infrastructure and construction firm Balfour Beatty is facing a lawsuit from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming the firm subjected a female truck driver to severe sexual harassment for more than a year and ignored her complaints.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit against the company this week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, alleging that multiple male employees had harassed the woman, one of whom asked her to “talk dirty” to him and sit on his lap.

He also sent her explicit text messages and requested she do the same. This alleged treatment, which the EEOC called "severe and pervasive," went on for over a year. The suit claims that when the victim complained to the foreman, he laughed at her.

“Some of the most egregious incidents of harassment and discrimination investigated by the EEOC over the past several years have occurred in the construction industry,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in a release. “The prevalence and severity of abuse directed at women in the construction industry is a significant barrier to their ability to get and keep good jobs in construction and further their careers in the industry. The EEOC is committed to advancing equal opportunity in construction by using all its tools, including outreach, education, technical assistance and, where necessary, litigation.”

The EEOC also accuses the workplace of allowing the treatment to escalate to the point that a co-worker was sending her pictures of his genitals. Colleagues allegedly called her derogatory names, told her to “shut the f*** up you stupid b****,” and told her “This is a man’s world ... if you can’t handle it then go work for Walmart.”

The suit claims the conduct breaches Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“We have only just received the Complaint and need to review it and investigate the claims made in it,” a Balfour Beatty spokesperson said in an email. “However, we do not tolerate harassment or discrimination in our work places or sites and have a zero tolerance policy relating to such behavior.”

From 1991 to 2022, the percentage of women in the construction industry jumped from less than 2% to roughly 11%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During certain months of last year, including July and August, women made up as much as 14% or more of the construction industry, Bisnow previously reported.

However, across the industry, sexism and in some cases sexual harassment remain prevalent. In April, the EEOC secured a default judgment against agency Green JobWorks for allegedly refusing to hire female workers for demolition and laborer positions.

In March, the commission released a report that found discrimination persists and contributes to the underrepresentation of women and workers of color in construction, and it outlined steps to improve equal opportunity in the sector.