WENATCHEE – A major construction company in north-central Washington has to pay a former worker more than $300,000 for discriminating against and retaliating against him while he was employed by them.
Uriel Sanchez of East Wenatchee was a precast concrete worker in Bethlehem. On Tuesday, a Chelan County jury found Bethlehem Construction of Cashmere violated state statutes and Sanchez’s civil liberties when he was released in 2016.
Sanchez complained about poor working conditions for himself and other Latino workers at a Quincy construction site, including a lack of available drinking water and beakers. Sanchez said in an affidavit that he began noticing a foul taste in the Bethlehem water, and at one point saw a construction manager rinse out the jars with water from a nearby pond.
Sanchez also contacted Bethlehem Human Resources to complain that the same site manager was using racial slurs towards his mostly Hispanic crew. He then told the jury that manager denied him access to some safety equipment and suggested that Sanchez was ineligible for future jobs on Bethlehem projects.
When Sanchez discovered rocks and dirt in a water jug provided for workers and reported it to the construction manager, the manager reportedly told him, “You’re unlucky.” Sanchez reported the incident to another manager, photographed the dirty one water with his cell phone and poured out the pitcher.
When Bethlehem executives fired Sanchez in August 2016, they cited throwing away a supply of drinking water as the reason. He was unemployed for eight months.
Sanchez filed a lawsuit the next year, alleging that the company discriminated against him based on his ethnicity, unlawfully retaliated when he reported the discrimination, and unfairly fired him from his job.
After a six-day trial, the unanimous jury ruled in favor of Sanchez on all counts. It awarded him $77,360 in lost wages and benefits and 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. It has built and participated in storage facilities and offices for several fruit growing companies throughout the Wenatchee Valley, including Stemilt, Dovex and Blue Bird large construction projects including Town Toyota Center and the Link Light Rail system from SeaTac to Seattle.