Jury imposes $327,000 discrimination verdict against Bethlehem Construction
WENATCHEE — A major construction company in north-central Washington is to pay a former worker more than $300,000 for discriminating and retaliating against him while he was in their employ.
Uriel Sanchez of East Wenatchee was a precast concrete worker in Bethlehem. On Tuesday, a Chelan County jury found that Bethlehem Construction of Cashmere violated state law and Sanchez’s civil rights when he fired him in 2016.
Sanchez complained of poor working conditions for himself and other Latino employees at a Quincy job site, including a shortage of drinking water and available mugs. Sanchez said in a deposition that he began noticing a bad taste in the water supplied by Bethlehem and at one point saw a site official rinse the jugs with water pumped from a pond. next to.
Sanchez also contacted Bethlehem’s human resources department to complain about the same site manager using racial slurs toward his largely Hispanic team. Afterwards, he told the jury that the manager denied him access to certain security equipment and suggested that Sanchez would not be eligible for future jobs on the Bethlehem projects.
When Sanchez discovered rocks and dirt in a jug of water provided to workers and told the site manager, the manager allegedly told him “you’re out of luck”. Sanchez reported the incident to another manager, took a photo of the dirty water with his phone, and poured out the jug.
When Bethlehem officials fired Sanchez in August 2016, they cited throwing away a drinking water supply as the reason. He did not work for eight months.
Sanchez sued the following year, alleging the company discriminated against him because of his ethnicity, unlawfully retaliated when he reported the discrimination, and wrongfully fired him from his work.
After a six-day trial, the jury unanimously ruled in favor of Sanchez on all counts. He awarded her $77,360 in lost wages and benefits, plus an additional $250,000 in damages. Bethlehem has the right to appeal Tuesday’s verdict.
Bethlehem Construction was founded in 1980 by CEO Michael Addleman. She has built storage facilities and offices for several fruit companies throughout the Wenatchee Valley, including Stemilt, Dovex and Blue Bird, and has been involved in major projects including Town Toyota Center and SeaTac’s Link Light Rail system in Seattle.