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

Washington Lawyers’ Committee and ArentFox Schiff Announce Lawsuit Against Eastern Applicators and Munguia Construction in Sexual Harassment Case

ALEXANDRIA, VA—Today, the Washington Lawyers’ Committee and ArentFox Schiff filed suited against Eastern Applicators, LLC and Munguia Construction, LLC on behalf of a mother and daughter who allege defendants terminated them after they reported sexual harassment by their supervisor.

“Instead of believing our clients when they spoke out about sexual harassment, their company protected their male harasser,” stated Sarah Bessell, Counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee. “No one should have to choose between earning a living and submitting to an employer’s sexual demands. Our clients, like so many other women in construction, demand equal treatment on the job.”

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. The Washington Post reports that Latina 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.

Sex harassment in the construction industry is a pernicious trend.  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 troublemakers, demoted, and, ultimately, terminated.

A 39-year-old woman and her 19-year-old daughter entered the construction industry in search of stable jobs and good wages. Hired to work as drywall finishers on the construction of a seniors’ residence center in northern Virginia, both women worked without issue until their new supervisor started. They allege that he quickly isolated the pair from other female workers and each other and began to make unwanted sexual advances on both mother and daughter. He would kiss or attempt to kiss each woman, on one occasion biting the mother’s shoulder and stating he wanted her romantic partner to get jealous.

When both women resisted his advances, he assigned them tasks involving heavy lifting that were normally assigned to male workers. In one instance, the daughter, a five-foot one-inch young woman, had to carry a cart weighing about 65 pounds upstairs – a job normally requiring two people. He also asked the women if they wanted him to be “nice or an ogre.”

In response to the mother and daughter’s report of sexual harassment, the women allege, supervisors at Eastern Applicators justified their harasser’s behavior by stating that, as a Colombian, he was very “amable” — i.e. “friendly.” Eastern Applicators supervisors also questioned the veracity of the women’s claims. Instead of conducting an investigation, Eastern Applicators and Munguia Construction terminated the daughter and transferred the mother to a worksite 75-miles away. The supervisor eventually pled guilty to assault of the women in a Virginia criminal case.

“I want people who see women in construction to realize that we are very discriminated against. Women who work in construction are often victims of harassment, discrimination and mistreatment. However, as women, we can perform the work. When we go to a worksite, we go the extra mile because we go to work to provide for our households,” said one client. Her daughter adds, “People sometimes think that women don’t have rights, but we do. I especially want women to know this.”

“We are proud to partner with the Washington Lawyer’s Committee in the pursuit of civil rights for all those in the DMV,” said Mario Torrico, Associate Attorney from ArentFox Schiff working on this case.

The complaint is here.


Joanna Wasik, [email protected]

Nathan Carlile, [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.


ArentFox Schiff has been a proud partner of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee since its inception and continues to join in the protection of civil rights. Whether an immediate need or a long-term objective, ArentFox Schiff helps our clients reach their full potential.

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