Contracting company to pay $400K in gender-bias suit involving plumber

Posted: February 26, 2014

A South Jersey mechanical contracting company has agreed to pay a total of $400,000 to resolve allegations that it violated state law by failing to employ female plumbers, including for public-funded projects, the state Attorney General's Office and the Division on Civil Rights announced Monday.

The settlement calls for Falasca Mechanical Inc. of Vineland to pay the state $250,000 and pay plumber Bette Feldeisen $150,000 to resolve allegations that it repeatedly hired less experienced and less qualified male plumbers while handling millions of dollars in public works jobs.

Under the same settlement, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union No. 322 has agreed to join Falasca in an effort to increase female recruitment into the union. The local has also agreed to increase training and employment opportunities for female plumbers during the next three apprenticeship cycles. Falasca staffs its projects by requesting workers from the union.

"This case should serve as a reminder to other contractors, particularly those who are classified by our Department of Treasury as eligible to compete for public works projects: We are serious about equal opportunity in hiring, and will take action against any employer who fails to follow the law in this area," said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.

Feldeisen, a journeyman plumber, had been employed by Falasca but was laid off for economic reasons in 2009. She alleged that she was repeatedly passed over when Falasca was subsequently hired for private and public projects, according to a spokesmen for the Attorney General's Office and the Division on Civil Rights.

One of the private projects Falasca was hired for was the 2009 construction of a new Virtua Hospital facility in Voorhees that required work on medical gas systems. Despite her 13 years of experience and her certification in medical gas installation, Feldeisen alleged, she was passed over by Falasca and the union for less experienced male plumbers, some of whom were not certified in medical gas installation, the spokesman said.

In addition, the state investigation found Falasca failed to hire a single female plumber while handling 29 public works contacts that yield the company $93 million in revenue, the spokesman said.

By the terms of its agreement with the state, Falasca made no admission of wrongdoing or liability.

Attempts to reach Feldeisen were not successful. Her last known residence was in Galloway.


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rgiordano@phillynews.com

@ritagiordano

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