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Construction Co. Must Pay Former Employee $178,767 for Emotional Distress |

TRENTON – The Division on Civil Rights announced today that a Burlington County construction firm must pay a former employee $178,767 in back pay and compensation for emotional distress as a result of its race-based discrimination against him, and its retaliatory discharge of the worker.

Respondent CBM Construction Services of Mount Laurel must pay former employee Carl Carpenter $118,767 in back pay and pre-judgment interest, as well as $60,000 in damages for emotional distress. CBM also must pay the State a $10,000 statutory penalty, according to a Final Decision issued by Division Director Craig T. Sashihara. In deciding the case, Director Sashihara adopted the initial decision of an Administrative Law Judge, who presided at a hearing on the matter in November 2011. CBM failed to appear at the hearing.

Carpenter, of Philadelphia, began working for CBM Construction as a carpenter in December 2007. He was dismissed from his job in August 2008. While still employed by CBM, Carpenter was called a specific racial slur by his supervisor on several occasions. The same supervisor on one occasion told Carpenter he should remove the brown color from his face and, another time, urged fellow CBM employees to hide their valuables as Carpenter approached.

“No one should have to go to work each day and be subjected to the kind of racist, harassing conduct described in this case,” said Director Sashihara. “As we remind employers on a regular basis, they have a duty to respect the rights and dignity of all employees, and to provide recourse for workers who believe they’ve been the victims of harassment or any other kind of discrimination.

“Instead of providing real recourse for Carpenter,” Sashihara added, “upper management chose to accept his supervisor’s side without any investigation, and then ignore the administrative law hearing. That conduct sends the wrong message to the rest of the company’s workers.”

Carpenter complained about his supervisor’s conduct to a CBM executive, who arranged a meeting in July 2008. At that meeting, the supervisor apologized to Carpenter in the presence of CMB management.

However, CBM took no disciplinary action against the supervisor and, within a month, Carpenter was terminated.

CBM claimed that Carpenter was discharged for grouting a wall incorrectly, but no other employee on the same project was reprimanded or discharged. In addition, a May 18, 2008 performance evaluation described Carpenter’s work as “above average,” and Carpenter had received no negative performance reviews up until his discharge.

Under the terms of Director Sashihara’s final decision, CBM must pay Carpenter his $178,767, and the State its $10,000 statutory penalty, within 45 days of the June 1 ruling.