Construction firm settles allegations of sexual harassment

TradeOff was sued several times in the last few years

TRD New York /
Jul.July 13, 2020 08:30 AM
New York Attorney General Letitia James and TradeOff head Ron Lattanzio (Getty, Linkedin)

New York Attorney General Letitia James and TradeOff head Ron Lattanzio (Getty, Linkedin)

Nearly three years after accusations surfaced against TradeOff Construction Services, the firm has agreed to settle sexual-harassment and other claims brought by former employees.

According to court filings made public last week, New York Attorney General Letitia James reached a global settlement with women who claimed they were sexually harassed while working on some of TradeOff’s sites, including Related Companies’ 55 Hudson Yards.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed.

The settlement culminates years’ worth of allegations against Lynbrook-based TradeOff, a nonunion company that provides general construction labor, including site cleanup and maintenance. The first set of claims were filed in December 2017, first with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and then in federal court.

In one of the initial complaints, construction worker Ashley Foster alleged that one of TradeOff’s foreman at 55 Hudson Yards repeatedly exposed his genitals to her while they were working on the site, and another male supervisor regularly implied that she would advance at TradeOff if she had sex with him.

Another TradeOff worker, Tierra Williams, alleged that she was repeatedly harassed by a supervisor who tried to pressure her to sleep with him, and would stare at her in a menacing manner, especially when she was going in and out of the bathroom. Williams was fired after complaining about the harassment, her complaint alleges.

In her October 2018 lawsuit, Javishia Johnson claimed that supervisors inappropriately touched her while working on Extell Development’s 68 Charlton Street. She was also fired from sites after rebuffing her supervisors’ advances and alerting company executives of the incidents, according to her lawsuit. Johnson died in November 2019, but her estate continued the case.

Documents filed in Manhattan federal court in those three cases last week indicate that the attorney general’s office reached a settlement agreement, though other lawsuits and allegations are likely involved.

“TradeOff considers any level of harassment to be unacceptable, and deeply regrets that our processes for training and oversight failed some of the women who worked for us,” a TradeOff spokesperson said in a statement. “We are committed to work collaboratively with the attorney general’s office to vastly expand and strengthen the protections for our employees which includes heightened harassment training and reporting mechanisms.”

The attorney general’s office declined to comment.

Over the years, TradeOff has faced multiple allegations of sexual harassment and sparred with laborers union Local 79. The union has accused the Long Island–headquartered company of surveilling its sites and cheating it out of payments to its benefit funds. TradeOff, in turn, has accused Local 79 of harassing its employees.

In 2018 TradeOff also found itself in the middle of a labor dispute between Related and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, an umbrella organization of construction unions, over the second phase of Hudson Yards.

The union group played up lawsuits and federal complaints against TradeOff over the years and Related’s use of the company. TradeOff head Ron Lattanzio responded that the union was trying to protect its financial interests as the construction industry shifted to open-shop work, which includes nonunion workers.

In a Crain’s story in October 2018, Lattanzio denied that any abuse or misconduct occurred and attributed the complaints and lawsuits to unions’ dislike of him and his firm. Lattanzio said two women who shared their cases with the media in 2017 had been let go by TradeOff for poor performance or misbehavior and were then talked into pursuing harassment cases by union officials.

“We don’t tolerate sexual harassment,” Lattanzio told Crain’s, adding that the industry has historically had problems in that area and needed to “change the culture.”

Related and the Building Trades settled their dispute in March 2019, opening the door to open-shop work on the second phase of the Hudson Yards megadevelopment.

Write Kathryn Brenzel at [email protected]


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