|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the Division on Civil Rights announced today that a South Jersey mechanical contracting company has agreed to pay a total of $400,000 to resolve allegations that it violated the law and state Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules by failing to employ female plumbers on jobs it handled, including many publicly-funded projects.
Under terms of the settlement Falasca Mechanical, Inc. of Vineland, Cumberland County, will pay the State $250,000 and pay female plumber Bette Feldeisen $150,000 to resolve allegations that it repeatedly hired less experienced and less qualified male plumbers over Feldeisen, and overall failed to make a good-faith effort to employ female plumbers while handling millions of dollars in public works jobs.
Under the same settlement, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 322 has agreed to join with Falasca in a cooperative effort to increase female recruitment into the union. A non-paying party to the settlement, Local Union 322 also has agreed to increase training and employment opportunities for female plumbers during the next three apprenticeship cycles. Local Union 322 and Falasca have an ongoing labor agreement, and under that arrangement, Falasca staffs its projects by requesting workers from the union.
“This is a significant settlement, not only in monetary terms, but in terms of ensuring future compliance with New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) and Equal Employment Opportunity hiring rules,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This case should serve as a reminder to other contractors, particularly those who are classified by our Department of Treasury as eligible to compete for public works projects: we are serious about equal opportunity in hiring, and will take action against any employer who fails to follow the law in this area.”
A journeyman plumber, Feldeisen is a member of Local Union 322. She was employed by Falasca continuously from mid-December 2006 through January 2009, and prior to that had worked on occasional jobs for the contractor dating back as far as 2000.
At the end January 2009, Feldeisen was laid off by Falasca for economic reasons. She alleged to the Division on Civil Rights that, despite her experience and prior employment relationship with the contractor, she was repeatedly passed over when Falasca subsequently was hired to handle both private and public projects and sought plumbers through Local Union 322.
Among the private projects for which Falasca was hired was the 2009 construction of a new Virtua Hospital facility in Voorhees Township, Camden County, that required work on medical gas systems. Despite her 13 years of overall experience, Feldeisen alleged, and despite her holding a certification in medical gas installation, she was passed over by Falasca and Local Union 322 for less experienced male plumbers, some of whom were not certified in medical gas installation.
The Division’s Investigative Findings were that Falasca failed to hire or request a single female plumber while handling 29 public works contracts – including schools, municipal buildings, state buildings, a medical center and a prison –that yielded approximately $93 million in revenue for the company.
”We're constantly told that education and training are the keys to success. But that promise of success through education and hard work rings hollow if employers are making hiring decisions on factors like gender, race, religion or sexual orientation,” said Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara.
“Ms. Feldeisen is a licensed Master Plumber,” Sashihara said. “She underwent a five-year apprenticeship and earned a number of advanced training certifications. In fact, she had the ideal certification for the Virtua project--the medical gas installation certification -- but alleges that she was still just sitting at home waiting to get a call while male plumbers who lacked that certification were being hired in significant numbers.”
Under terms of its agreement with the State, Falasca makes no admission of wrongdoing or liability.
In addition to the monetary terms of settlement, Falasca has agreed to work with Local Union 322 to comply with state-targeted hiring goals for female workers, including contacting affiliated unions and hiring “out of territory” female union members if necessary.
Falasca also has agreed, relative to every public contract it is awarded, to keep specific records of its efforts to reach targeted hiring goals for women. The records are to be kept for at least three years, and must include records of all individuals requested or referred from a labor union, as well as those interviewed or hired.
Falasca also will develop its own anti-discrimination and EEO Rules compliance policy, provide copies of the policy to the Division on Civil Rights, and distribute it to all unions with whom Falasca has a collective bargaining or other type of labor agreement.
The contractor also has agreed to provide mandatory training on its anti-discrimination and EEO rules compliance policy to all project managers, foremen, hiring personnel and Local Union 322’s Business Manager. The training must be conducted by a qualified individual with a background in, and knowledge of, the LAD and civil rights law.
Reporting and monitoring provisions are built into the settlement to ensure Falasca’s compliance.
In addition, Local Union 322 and Falasca have agreed to engage in a joint cooperative effort to strengthen female recruitment into Local Union 322, and increase opportunities for female plumbers. As part of that effort, Local Union 322’s Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) has committed to its own outreach and recruitment efforts to attract more female participants in the apprenticeship program.
Local Union 322 also has agreed to undertake outreach to students in at least three vocational-technical high schools during each of the next five academic years, including the 2013-2014 academic year. The purpose of such outreach will be to provide information about the plumbing industry as a career, and to encourage first and second year female students to pursue careers in the trade.
Deputy Attorney General James Michael, Deputy Attorney General Megan Harris, Special Investigations Unit Head Lorraine LeSter and Investigator Marian Bland handled the Falasca matter on behalf of the State.