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Native American firm’s retaliation charge reinstated

Native American firm’s retaliation charge reinstated

Citing an 1866 civil rights law, a federal appeals court has reinstated a retaliation charge filed by a Native American-owned construction company against a contractor.

Pueblo, Colorado-based Parker Excavating Inc. was a subcontractor on a project for Fort Collins, Colorado-based Lafarge West Inc. on a paving contract for Pueblo County, Colorado, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in Parker Excavating Inc. v. Lafarge West Inc. et al.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based Martin Marietta Minerals Inc. replaced Lafarge as the primary contractor, and Parker’s participation in the project was terminated before it entered a new subcontract with Martin Marietta, according to the ruling

Greg Parker, a vice president at Parker, which is associated with the Choctaw Tribe, said he was the target of discriminatory conduct during a pre-construction meeting in June 2011, when a county employee wadded up his company’s proposed traffic control diagrams and threw them in the trash.

Mr. Parker called a county commissioner that July to complain about the incident, and the next day Lafarge employee Nick Guerra sent Mr. Parker a letter of reprimand on Lafarge’s behalf, according to the ruling. Parker also said it complained about discrimination on two other occasions.

The county employee complained about Mr. Parker on Dec. 12, 2011, and Mr. Guerra wrote Mr. Parker on the same day stating Martin Marietta had taken over for Lafarge as the county’s contractor. The letter said Martin Marietta asked that Parker vacate the project. It was written on Martin Marietta letterhead, but Mr. Guerra signed it as a Lafarge employee.

Another letter reiterating these same points was sent to Mr. Parker on Dec. 15, but Mr. Guerra signed it as a Martin Marietta employee.

Parker sued Lafarge, Mr. Guerra and others in U.S. District Court in Denver in May 2014 on charges including retaliation. The District Court granted Lafarge summary judgment dismissing the claim, which a three-judge panel unanimously overturned.

Pointing to the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination and retaliation, the ruling said. “The court erred in ruling there was no genuine issue of fact as to whether Lafarge played a role in terminating” Parker.

The ruling says although the Dec. 12 letter was written on Martin Marietta Materials letterhead, Mr. Guerra signed it and copied it to Lafarge managers, “which creates a genuine issue of fact as to whether Lafarge played a role in terminating (Parker) and thus took adverse action against it. The court erred in holding otherwise,” said the ruling in reversing the lower court ruling.




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