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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Vile Treatment Alleged at Utah Company

SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - Thirty-five Hispanic workers sued a Utah steel company, claiming their bosses subjected them to vile treatment, including spitting on the floor and telling them to "lick it up."

Alonso Lira-Damian and 34 others sued SME Steel Contractors and SME Industries, on Monday in Federal Court.

The workers - welders, forklift operators and general crew, including part runners and machine operators - say the harassment ran rampant at the Utah-based company.

The list of insults to which they say they were subjected goes on for pages in the 62-page complaint, including "fucking monkeys," "bitch," "dog," "fucking Mexican," and on and on.

The complaint lists eight supervisors by name, though none as defendants. SME fired all of the plaintiffs in late 2013, according to the complaint.

After they filed a complaint of race and national origin discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, they say, SME contacted them repeatedly to discuss the possibility of returning to work.

"Defendants' human resource director, John Gardner, told different plaintiffs on multiple occasions that they would be more likely to get rehired if they abandoned their charges of discrimination and stopped complaining about their treatment by defendants," the complaint states.

"Mr. Gardner told multiple plaintiffs that they would not be able to return to work if they were part of a discrimination claim against defendants. Mr. Gardner told other plaintiffs that they would have to sign a paper affirming that they had abandoned their discrimination claims in order to return to work for defendants."

They did not drop the EEOC complaint. Lira-Damian the EEOC gave him a right-to-sue letter on Jan. 13 this year.

SME, a steel fabricator and erector business, also operates in Nevada and California. The business employed more than 500 workers in Utah alone in 2014, the plaintiffs say.

SME executives, including CEO Wayne Searle and COO Derek Bamberry, did not respond to several requests for comment.

The plaintiffs seek punitive damages, back pay and attorneys' fees for race and national origin discrimination.

They are represented by Kass Harstad with Strindberg & Scholnick.

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