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Federal lawsuit accuses Baltimore staffing agency of discriminating against Hispanics

U.S. Department of Labor announced Wednesday that it filed a lawsuit against a Baltimore-based staffing agency for federal contractors, accusing the firm of harassing and discriminating against its Hispanic construction workers.

The Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs also accused WMS Solutions LLC, an asbestos removal and demolition staffing firm, of discriminating against non-Hispanic applicants, paying female workers less per hour than male workers and assigning fewer work hours to African-American, white and female laborers.

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Since at least 2011, the company favored hiring Hispanic laborers, then knowingly permitted abusive practices by supervisors of other firms at work sites against them, the lawsuit alleged. Supervisors physically assaulted the workers, made racial slurs, and showed the workers videos of detained and deported Hispanic laborers to intimidate them.

No one answered a phone number listed for WMS Solutions, which had an office near Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Records show the company's Maryland business charter was forfeited in 2012 and that it cannot be revived without special approval by state labor officials.

At the time that the alleged discrimination and harassment occurred, WMS Solutions held federal construction subcontracts totaling more than $6 million for projects involving the General Services Administration, National Institutes of Health and the Navy.

An advocacy group, the Public Justice Center, filed a complaint in 2012 against WMS Solutions with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging the company put hundreds of employees at risk by failing to protect them against asbestos. The company required workers to pay for medical exams, training and protective equipment such as gloves, goggles and respirators, the complaint alleged. The status of that complaint was not available Wednesday.

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