New York-based Trade Off Construction Services has agreed to pay $1.5 million to 18 former female employees after an investigation by the state’s attorney general revealed “a pattern of severe sexual harassment,” according to an announcement from the AG’s office. It’s the first such agreement New York Attorney General Letitia James has ever reached regarding sexual harassment in the construction industry.
The investigation’s details revealed that over the course of “at least” the last four years, female employees had endured severe and frequent harassment, including the solicitation of sexual favors by supervisors (sometimes with a quid pro quo condition to increase pay), graphic text and video communications, and both vulgar comments and groping.
What’s perhaps most troubling is that upon the victims coming forward to Trade Off with their stories, management not only failed to adequately investigate, address, or even take action against the illegal behavior, but instead retaliated against the victims. Multiple women were fired after their complaints had been heard.
Pro Remodeler reached out to Trade Off Construction Services for a better understanding of the services it provides as well more information on the circumstances leading up to the payoff, but were referred to the company's attorney who further referred us to a communications firm handling PR for Trade Off. We are still awaiting a response.
An Industry Failure, and Reminder
While the AG’s report ties Trade Off’s failures to the company’s “systemic failure in training, protection, and response to sexual harassment,” it ultimately reflects the industry’s inadequacies at large. Multiple surveys on the subject have found the same thing: sex- and minority-based harassment on jobsites is common.
“What I and other former employees of Trade Off went through speaks to the often sexist and abusive nature of the construction business,” said former Trade Off employee Tierra Williams in the AG’s announcement. “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.”
Trade Off’s extreme and damaging shortcomings serve as a reminder of the sometimes hard-to-look-at reality of our industry, and also the consequences of what ignoring and trying to hide that reality can be. It’s a reminder to listen to victims and, more importantly, to take action on what they say. It’s a reminder to educate and train both employees and managers, and have clear anti-harassment policies in place. It’s a reminder to be a respectable company and employer.
As the New York Attorney General said, “All employees deserve to work in an environment where they are valued and respected and not subjected to harassment.”