The U.S. Department of Labor is suing a New York photo and electronics company with more than $46 million in federal government contracts for allegedly discriminating against Asians, blacks, and women in their hiring practices.
The lawsuit, dated Feb. 24 and filed with the Office of Administrative Law Judges, accuses B&H Foto & Electronics Corp. of exclusively hiring Hispanic men for entry-level positions at its Brooklyn, New York, warehouse and promoting and compensating white workers at higher rates than Hispanics.
It also alleges that between Jan. 31, 2011, and Jan. 31, 2013, B&H did not hire any blacks or Asians for those same warehouse positions, and that Hispanic employees were targeted with racist and degrading comments and were denied equal access to clean and functioning restrooms.
“Federal contractors’ workforces should reflect the diversity of the American people, the people who are ultimately footing the bill for the goods and services that contractors provide to the government,” Patricia A. Shiu, director of the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), said in a statement.
B&H spokesman Henry Posner said in a statement that every employee is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of race, ethnicity or religion. "There are always areas where we can better ourselves,” Posner said, adding that the allegations detailed in the lawsuit were made by people who had never visited a B&H facility.
“We can declare outright that B&H does not have any segregated bathrooms by race or religion, and anyone working at B&H knows that to be true,” he said. “Additionally, any similar contentions are not only inaccurate but bizarre.”
The lawsuit comes three years after OFCCP first informed B&H that it would conduct a compliance review of its warehouse, located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In a subsequent letter dated Feb. 27, 2015, sent to B&H chief executive officer Sam Goldstein, the OFCCP said it was unable to reach a satisfactory resolution on 15 violations it found during the review, which included not hiring any Asians and allegedly failing to keep applications and procedures on file.
Around three months earlier, B&H offered to pay $112,000 as a settlement, which the OFCCP said addressed only some of the violations, according to court documents. On Dec. 15, 2014, lawyers for B&H informed the OFCCP that the $112,000 was a “take it or leave it good faith offer,” which the Labor Department rejected, court documents said.
This is not the first time B&H, which opened in 1973, has been hit with allegations of workplace discrimination. In 2007, the superstore settled a $4.3 million lawsuit with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after Hispanic warehouse employees alleged they were paid less than their white counterparts. Two years later, one current and three former female B&H employees also sued the company, saying they were denied sales positions because of their gender.
And in 2011, two Hispanic men fired the year before filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against B&H, alleging that for years they were refused promotions and raises, according to the New York Daily News.
If the allegations in the current lawsuit are found to be true and B&H does not correct them, the Labor Department is asking that B&H’s contracts with the FBI and General Services Administration be terminated and that it be barred from entering into future federal contracts.