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EEOC suing janitorial service company for racial discrimination

A national company that provides janitorial services to more than 200 entities in Maryland is facing a federal lawsuit for allegedly engaging in discriminatory practices against African Americans.

Florida-based Diversified Maintenance Systems LLC showed an “ongoing pattern” of discrimination against African Americans by refusing to hire job applicants of that race for custodian, lead custodian or porter positions since January 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Diversified’s district managers in Maryland and the Washington and Philadelphia metro areas allegedly told area managers not to hire black applicants without special permission. Area managers were also told to deter those applicants by repeatedly telling prospective hires that the company performs criminal background checks, prompting many African Americans to withdraw their names from consideration, the EEOC said.

During a 2014 job fair in Waldorf, a district manager allegedly told newly hired black workers that the company did not have any openings and revoked their employment offers, the lawsuit states.

The EEOC also alleges that that the district managers subjected janitorial supervisor Dana Fields, an African American who supervised janitors at big box stores in southern and central Maryland, to harassment because of his race. District managers allegedly called him the N-word and used other abusive language in front of customers and employees.

Demoted, then fired

Fields complained to upper management and representatives in human resources, but Diversified failed to take any action. Instead, Fields was demoted, his workload was increased far beyond that of his counterparts and he was denied necessary resources to do his job. Fields had to frequently work 18-hour days, he had to clean the floor of one retail store on his hands and knees and was subsequently fired after he was hospitalized because of stress and physical demands of his job, the lawsuit states.

“This case involves an allegation of egregious discrimination based on race, where an entire class of black candidates were denied hire because of the color of their skin,” EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis said in a statement. “And under federal law, workers who stand up to employers and to oppose their discriminatory practices may not be punished for doing so.”

The EEOC filed the lawsuit after it was unable to reach an acceptable conciliation agreement with Diversified to stop the alleged discriminatory practices. The EEOC sent the company an initial letter in January finding cause that the company had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the lawsuit.

“Race-based barriers to employment will not be tolerated and we will strongly advocate for the rights of those who suffered such mistreatment,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement.

The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief, including a requirement for Diversified to give African-American workers equal opportunities and stop discriminatory employment practices as well as compensatory and punitive damages for Fields and other black applicants.

Diversified officials were unable to comment on the lawsuit on Wednesday.

The case is EEOC v. Diversified Maintenance Systems LLC, 8:17-cv-01835-PX.

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