Labor Department sues Baltimore staffing firm, alleging abuse toward Hispanic workers

A lawsuit filed against WMS Solutions LLC by the U.S. Department of Labor also alleges that the company underpaid women and discriminated against non-Hispanics.

The Labor Department said in a statement it reviewed the company’s compliance with Executive Order 11246, which protects laborers from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.

The Labor Department said it sought an agreement from WMS to pay back wages to affected workers, extend offers to rejected applicants and create a harassment-free workplace, but filed suit after WMS failed to agree to those terms.

WMS officials could not immediately be reached for comment. The staffing company, which was founded in 2009 and has five employees, provides laborers to contractors and subcontractors in Maryland, Washington, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The Labor Department’s suit alleges that since Feb. 1, 2011, WMS hired more Hispanic laborers than African-American and Caucasian laborers. It also alleges that company managers were aware of abusive practices, including the use of racial slurs and threats of deporting Hispanic workers, and took no steps to stop them.

"WMS allowed workers it hired to be exploited and abused. It denied job opportunities to qualified workers based on race and ethnicity. It underpaid female workers and assigned fewer work hours based on race and gender," said Patricia A. Shiu, director of the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. "We have taken action on behalf of these workers. OFCCP is prepared to use every tool at its disposal to ensure that no federal contractors and subcontractors engage in discrimination or harassment."

In 2012, the Public Justice Center filed a complaint with the federal government alleging that WMS did not follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines that require an employer to provide workers with asbestos protections, including paid medical exams and protective equipment.

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