Female Construction Workers File Lawsuit Challenging Sexual Harassment, Retaliation by Maryland Construction Company

Washington Lawyers’ Committee and Gilbert LLP Announce Lawsuit Against Avena Contracting LLC and Meblis Construction in Sexual Harassment Case

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee and Gilbert LLP filed a lawsuit against Avena Contracting LLC and Meblis Construction on behalf of their clients, Bersuni Campos and Maria Garcia, who allege their supervisor terminated them after they challenged his repeated sexual harassment.

“I would like our voices to be heard,” stated Ms. Campos. Ms. Garcia added, “We women have rights. I want the voices of women to be heard because there is so much violence, abuse, harassment, and bad treatment.”

Sex harassment in the construction industry is a national trend. The number of women working in the construction industry has risen significantly in the past decade, with more than 1.2 million women currently working in construction. Hispanic women account for the bulk of this growth, with their numbers increasing 117% from 2016 to 2022. Washington, D.C. has a greater share of women in construction than any state. Many times, through their mere existence on the job, they challenge a male-dominated work culture.

A 2021 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research found that one in four women surveyed stated that they experience near constant sexual harassment on the job. Women who complain about sexually hostile work environments are often branded as trouble-makers, demoted, and, ultimately, terminated.

Ms. Campos and Ms. Garcia work in a male-dominated industry. Like many Hispanic women, they started working in construction in pursuit of stable jobs with good pay. Hired to work as drywall finishers on the construction of an Amazon warehouse in Maryland, both women worked without issue until their new supervisor started overseeing their work. Ms. Campos and Ms. Garcia allege that he subjected them to daily derogatory comments, including making comments about their bodies and frequently told that they were “useless,” not capable of doing these jobs, and that women belonged at  home listening to their husbands.

This supervisor barred Ms. Campos, Ms. Garcia, and other female workers, but not male workers, from using the bathroom other than during their lunch break during their 12-hour shifts. He would follow and time the women and berate them for taking too long, ultimately deducting time from their paychecks. Ms. Campos and Ms. Garcia, working in late summer, began to limit their water intake and, on occasion, bled through their pants as a result of being denied reasonable access to the bathroom.

When Ms. Campos and Ms. Garcia directly confronted their supervisor about his harassment, he fired them. Appeals to other company supervisors fell on deaf ears.

“Our clients refuse to ‘go back to the kitchen’ and will not stand for unequal treatment on the job,” stated Sarah Bessell, Counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee.

“Our clients are bringing this suit not only to enforce their own rights, but because they want change and accountability and to address the mistreatment and harassment of women everywhere.  Their resilience and bravery in speaking out is inspiring,” stated Michael Rush, Of Counsel at Gilbert LLP.

Read a copy of the complaint here.


Linda Paris, [email protected]

Eric Hauser, [email protected]

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs works to create legal, economic, and social equity through litigation, client and public education and public policy advocacy. While we fight discrimination against all people, we recognize the central role that current and historic race discrimination plays in sustaining inequity and recognize the critical importance of identifying, exposing, combatting, and dismantling the systems that sustain racial oppression.

Gilbert LLP is a Washington-based law firm specializing in litigation and strategic risk management, insurance recovery and complex dispute resolution.

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