Three African American construction workers who helped build the Capitol Hill light rail tunnels during 2011-2012 say supervisors gave skilled minority laborers menial tasks, denied overtime based on race, and were openly hostile to black workers.
The allegations were made in a civil lawsuit filed in a Seattle federal court earlier this month against Traylor Brothers, a company that had formed a joint venture with Frontier-Kemper to bore the the U-Link twin tunnels between Capitol Hill and the University of Washington stations.
The lawsuit singles out one Traylor/Frontier-Kemper superintendent who allegedly had a swastika tattoo on his hand, sent an email to workers that said “BE PROUD TO BE WHITE!”, and said of one black worker, “I’m not having no nigger down here running a crane.”
An attorney representing Traylor Brothers told seattlepi.com that the company “absolutely and categorically” denies the allegations. A court date has not yet been set in the case.
The lawsuit joins a 2014 class action lawsuit where a group of black workers sued the partnership for firing workers based on race. A judge denied the lawsuit’s class-action status sought by attorney Gregory Hitzel, the same attorney representing the three workers in this month’s lawsuit. However, Sound Transit investigated the claims and found black workers were more likely to be fired than other workers.
Hitzel said in the complaint that the Indiana-based contractor has demonstrated “a pattern and practice of discrimination” against minority workers. The workers are seeking to be compensated for unpaid wages and damages for enduring racist behavior at their workplace.
The Traylor/Frontier-Kemper joint venture won the tunnel boring gig when the contractors delivered a bid some $86 million below what Sound Transit had forecast the tunneling to cost.