Construction worker sues employers for directing him to use ‘colored’ door

Construction worker sues employers for directing him to use ‘colored’ door

An article from

Dive Brief // Racism in Construction

Published Feb. 7, 2023

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has increased its focus on discrimination in construction. Ryan Golden/Construction Dive

Dive Brief:

  • An African-American construction worker has filed a lawsuit against an Albany, New York, developer and one of its subcontractors, alleging that the developer’s superintendent told him he had to use the “colored” entrance to go into a breakroom at an Albany jobsite where apartments were being built.
  • The worker filed suit against Rosenblum Development and AJS Masonry, a concrete and masonry contractor in Clifton Park, New York, that his union had assigned him to work for in September 2022. The worker said in the suit that when he asked to enter a trailer to heat his lunch in the microwave, Rosenblum’s superintendent told him he had to enter through a separate door due to his race.
  • “No, you’re colored,” the superintendent said, according to the suit. “Colored people have to use the other door designated for the colored people.” The worker said in the suit that he was so distraught by the comment that he first went to sit in his car, and eventually left the work site.

Dive Insight:

The suit, filed in New York Supreme Court for Albany County, alleges that Rosenblum’s and AJS Masonry’s conduct was “so extreme and outrageous as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

Filed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the complaint said that the emotional distress the incident caused the worker was “severe and of a nature that no reasonable person could be expected to endure.”

The suit claims as a result, the worker suffered physical, psychological and financial harm, including anxiety that caused the worker’s stomach to turn, as well as anxiety of working with White people.

Seth Rosenblum, principal at Rosenblum Development, sent a statement to Construction Dive regarding the incident and suit, and said the firm fired the superintendent.

“Upon learning of this troubling allegation, we immediately launched a swift but thorough investigation,” Rosenblum wrote. “The employee who was the subject of the complaint was terminated. We have zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind at our workplaces and worksites, which strikes against the inclusive culture we are committed to at Rosenblum.”

AJS Masonry, which the suit alleges sanctioned the superintendent’s racist behavior while refusing to take
any corrective or disciplinary actions against him, did not immediately respond to Construction Dive’s request for comment.

While not listed in the suit,Albany News 13 reported the worker is seeking $1 million in damages from the defendants. It also said Rosenblum had apologized for the incident through the worker’s attorney as an act of good faith.

Jobsite discrimination within construction has become a focal point of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Last May, the agency held a hearing looking at complaints within the sector, and has since issued a steady stream of fines, suits and penalties against contractors who allegedly engage in discrimination.

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