AG James finds Hudson Yards-linked construction firm rife with sexual harassment culture

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New York Attorney General Letitia James. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

It’s all in the name for this company.

For 18 former employees of Trade Off – referred to colloquially as a “body shop” – the hell they have endured finally comes with a settlement after a lawsuit from state Attorney General Letitia James.

Now, the Long Island-based construction company will be strapped with a monitor as well for four years of sexual harassment of employees and gender discrimination in the workforce against primarily women of color, according to the AG. The investigation also found the company guilty of retaliating against workers who spoke out against misconduct.

Specifically, workers say they were subjected to quid pro quo harassment from managers in exchange for better pay or overtime.

“The reality is that over the years, Trade Off has maintained a toxic working environment where employees were mistreated, silenced, ignored and sometimes wrongfully terminated,” James said. “Let this be a lesson to construction companies and employers in general who think they can harass and take advantage of staff, it will not be tolerated.”

Trade Off has provided work to projects within Hudson Yards, according to Tamir Rosenblum of the Mason Tenders’ District Council of Greater New York, and many of the staff provided for to projects were formerly incarcerated folks who needed to maintain employment in order to maintain their freedom; hence the Trade Off?

As such, the survivors claimed they were paid minimum wage and denied overtime on top of endemic sexually harassment.

Body shops, as Trade Off is referred to as, are known to provide non-union labor for projects. While not all Trade Off employees were unrepresented, but the union was involved in condemning the treatment of non-union laborers of the company. Body Shops are also known for extremely low pay for workers, something Tierra Williams, one of the survivors, said was not enough after taxes and healthcare costs to help keep their head above water.

“This is big work, Hudson Yards was where Tierra worked… Hudson Yards, they were a prime user of Trade Off,” Rosenblum said. “It also brings attention to how we treat our formerly incarcerated citizens. Trade Off won Employer of the year award from an organization called the Center for Employment Opportunities in 2016. Nobody should be winning awards giving this kind of work.”

Trade Off has agreed to employ an outside monitor for the next three years and they will be required to piece together sexual harassment guidelines.

Trade Off could not be reached for comment.

A portfolio of their work can be viewed on the company website.

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