Balfour Beatty sued by US agency over ‘hostile and abusive’ sexual harassment

Balfour Beatty’s US business is being sued by a federal agency over allegations that a female truck driver was subjected to severe sexual harassment at work.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced this week that it had launched the action against Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc, alleging that the driver was subject to harassment for more than a year, with one colleague asking her to “talk dirty” to him, send pictures of her breasts, and sit on his lap. The colleague is also alleged to have sent her sexually explicit text messages.

In a statement, the body, which administers and enforces civil rights laws at work, said the victim reported the conduct to a Balfour foreman, who is said to have laughed at her.

“The behaviour was allowed to continue, and the co-worker’s conduct escalated as he began sending the victim photos of his penis. The victim also experienced hostile and abusive harassment by several male co-workers because she was female,” the EEOC said.

Male co-workers also allegedly called the victim sexually derogatory names on a regular basis, telling her to “shut the f*** up you stupid b****” and that “this is a man’s world [and] if you can’t handle it then go work for Walmart”, according to the EEOC.

She was also “denied an opportunity for advancement she was expecting”, the EEOC alleges. Meanwhile, the co-workers and the foreman in question were “transferred to [a] more desirable project”.

The agency said that this treatment breached the Civil Rights Act 1964 and is pursuing Balfour Beatty for compensation, back pay and punitive damages. It is also seeking an injunction to ensure such practices cannot take place at Balfour Beatty Infrastructure in future.

EEOC chair Charlotte Burrows said: “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.

“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.”

Balfour Beatty Communities, another US arm of Balfour Beatty, was fined the equivalent of £49m in 2021 after pleading guilty to a major fraud relating to falsified military housing-maintenance records.

A spokesperson for Balfour Beatty said: Balfour Beatty is committed to providing a workplace where everyone feels respected and valued for their unique contributions.

We do not condone the type of behavior alleged in this suit and have reporting mechanisms in place for anyone to report misconduct. We cannot comment on the specifics of the suit as it is active litigation.

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