Shepherd Electric Co., a wholesale electrical distributor founded more than a century ago in downtown Baltimore, violated federal law by firing two former managers because of their race, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit Friday.
The lawsuit accuses the company, which operates in the Baltimore-Washington region, of firing two Black managers at the company’s Laurel warehouse in retaliation for their complaints about race-based discrimination.
The federal agency alleges one former longtime manager was fired after he complained that the company disciplined Black employees more harshly than white employees. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, said the company unlawfully fired another former manager one week after he complained the company paid a significantly higher salary to a newly-hired white employee with the same job duties.
A representative of Shepherd Electric could not be reached immediately Friday. The company’s website describes Shepherd as the the oldest wholesale electrical distributor in the Baltimore/Washington area with a mission to “earn the reputation as the best employer in the area” and with customers in commercial construction, facility management and other areas.
The EEOC said the alleged conduct violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits race discrimination and retaliating against workers for complaining about such behavior.
“Punishing employees who speak out against discrimination violates federal law,” Baltimore Field Office Director Rosemarie Rhodes said in an announcement. “The EEOC strives to remedy this illegal conduct through our administrative processes and, when necessary, through litigation.”
Shepherd Electric, which has headquarters on Pulaski Highway, got its start in 1892 on Calvert Street selling batteries and light bulbs and was among businesses forced to relocate from Lombard Street during the first phase of Inner Harbor redevelopment in 1969. It now has locations in Baltimore, Laurel, Frederick and Sterling, Virginia.