U.S. Labor Department Sues B&H Photo And Electronics For Discrimination And Harsh Working Conditions For Hispanic Workers

B&H Photo and Electronics, a popular electronics store in New York with an equally popular online presence, is being sued by the U.S. Labor Department for a number of alleged infractions, including discrimination against Hispanic workers and overall poor working conditions. it's the second time in less than a decade that B&H has been sued over labor disputes relating to Hispanic workers.

This could get costly for B&H. The first time around, B&H ended up settling the lawsuit in 2009 by agreeing to pay $4.3 million to 149 Hispanic employees who were paid less than their white co-workers, denied promotions, and had benefits unfairly withheld from them. Some of those same complaints have found their way into the new lawsuit.

B&H Foto and Electronics

During a recent compliance review, the U.S. Department of Labor found that B&H's Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse only hired Hispanic men into its entry-level laborer job group, completely excluding female employees. It also found that Hispanic workers received promotions and pay at a "significantly lower rate than comparable white workers."

To make matters worse, the lawsuit alleges that Hispanic warehouse workers were subjected to separate and unsanitary restrooms that sometimes didn't operate at all. Furthermore, B&H is accused of not having separate restrooms for females.

"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," said OFCCP’s Director Patricia A. Shiu. "B&H fell far short of this responsibility and created deplorable working conditions for employees at its Brooklyn warehouse. This agency is prepared to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that no federal contractors engage in discrimination against women and people of color."

Employees in two of B&H's warehouses in Brooklyn voted to join the Steelworkers Union, which is currently in negotiations on a labor contract. Regardless of how that goes, B&H could lose supply contracts with government agencies worth more than $46 million, depending on the outcome of the lawsuit.