Affordable Housing Worker Endures Sexual Abuse, Wage Theft and Racial Bias

A Bronx female ironworker who says that she was subjected to sexual harassment, wage cheating, unsafe job conditions and racial bias has filed suit against her former employer.

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LaFondra Brown, 34 issued a formal complaint to her supervisors and literally walked away in protest from the construction site she once worked at. Many of her co-workers stood by, watching from across the street.  They showed their approval by applauding her bold actions.

Brown had been employed as a welder’s assistant for over a decade with Urban Erectors, a company that builds affordable housing units for the city.  Throughout her employment, the mother of two endured all kinds of garbage from her senior supervisors.

I get all kinds of stuff,” Brown said. “You name it, I get it. But after [tolerating it] for so long, you can’t take it anymore.”

“One of them grabbed my ass and I almost fell off the scaffold.”

Another manager after several unsuccessful attempts to touch her, bared his private parts.

During her employment with the company, she has worked as a signal person, a fireguard, a welder’s assistant, and a flagger.

In May 2015, Brown was instructed to weld, yet her employer failed to provide the proper equipment.  Because of this, Brown ended up in the hospital with damaged corneas. To add insult to injury, the hospital expenses became her financial responsibility after all that she endured from the company.

“I’m not even a licensed welder, and they [supervisors] have me welding just to get their job done,” Brown said. “But if they want it done, you’ve got to do it. At the end of the day, I have to feed my kids and pay my bills.”

U.S. Crane & Rigging is part of the Auringer family of companies, which is also a part of NY Hoist, Urban Pre-Cast and others. Over the past decade, Auringer companies have racked up over $300,000 in citations amidst initial OSHA [Occupational Safety & Health Administration] fines.

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Auringer-owned construction companies.  The suit claims that the businesses cheated wages out of their employees and refused to pay overtime.

Previously two other ironworkers walked off another Auringer-associated construction site naming unchecked worker abuse as the primary issue.  Both Ithier Lopez, 26, and Carol Turner, 51, have worked with Brown several times before.  Each one of them said that they are not surprised by the accusations of sexual harassment.

As an African-American woman working on predominantly White male job sites –and many times, the only woman, Brown also experienced racial and gender bias.  One time when Brown asked to use the bathroom at a job site, she says a supervisor responded, “You’re black and a woman — you’re lucky to have a job. Why should I let you use my bathroom?”

“The company recently hired another woman as a flagger two months ago,” she said. “But she’s getting it, too. I told her, you better keep your eyes and your ears open. Don’t do anything that’s going to risk your life or get you hurt.”

Many incidents of sexual abuse had been reported by Brown to the company’s owner “I would go to the bigger bosses and complain, and they all covered it up,” She said.

She added “I want to see workers getting the right accommodations that they’re supposed to have, we deserve it. A lot of us put our lives on the line every day doing this work – and we get nothing in return for it.”

Do you suspect you may be the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination?

Don’t let your harasser get away with treating you less than what you deserve.  If you have been a victim of NYC, NJ, PA workplace sexual harassment or discrimination, our team of New York City employment law attorneys strongly urge you to reach out to our law firm for a free consultation. You deserve fair and equal treatment under the law.

For a FREE Consultation in NY, NJ & PA schedule with a sexual harassment attorney at the Derek T. Smith Law Group in NY, NJ, PA and D.C. You can reach us online or by calling 877-4NYLAWS.  Our New York City, Philadelphia and New Jersey employment law attorneys handle cases involving sexual harassment, race, ethnic, gender discrimination, and other employment-related lawsuits. We serve clients throughout New York, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. We also have offices in New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. to serve you.

Give us a call today.


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