Job placement company accused of discrimination
By Judy masterson email@example.com | @JudyReport October 7, 2013 7:20PM
Inside the Most Valuable People temp agency at the corner of Belvidere Street and Sheridan Road in Waukegan.| Judy Masterson/Sun-Times Media
Victim of job
B.A.M.M., Waukegan-based Black Abolition Movement for the Mind founder Chris Blanks invites people who believe they have been victims of job discrimination to attend weekly meetings of the group at 7 p.m. Thursdays at the B.A.M.M. office at 801 McAlister Ave., Waukegan.
For more information, visit www.bam4themind.com.
Updated: November 9, 2013 6:03AM
African American clients of Most Valuable Personnel in Waukegan, a day labor office, are accusing the company of discrimination.
Kevin Duty, 47, of Waukegan said he’s filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging a pattern, by MVP, of choosing Hispanics over blacks to send out on jobs − even when black workers check in earlier.
“It’s supposed to be first come, first served,” Duty said. “But the lead managers are Hispanic. They pick Hispanics and send blacks home. When I ask about seniority, they say ‘There is no seniority. We pick who we want.’”
Other complaints against the company include the alleged refusal to compensate workers for waiting and travel time back and forth to job sites where they may or may not be put to work, the withholding of paychecks, and that blacks are more often sent to lower-paying jobs in Wisconsin, while Hispanic workers get dibs on jobs in Illinois, where the minimum wage − $8.25 − is one dollar more.
HR managers for MVP, which is headquartered in Northbrook, were unavailable for comment, according to employees who answered phones at that office and the agency in Waukegan.
“They’re not treating us fair,” said Regina Harris, 25, of Waukegan, a single mother of three children. She claims the company withheld one of her checks for nearly a week. Brenda Johnson, 23, said she was told by MVP managers that she has “a language barrier” because she doesn’t speak Spanish. She’s trying to learn, she said. Both women, and Duty, say all MVP managers are Hispanic.
“And once you get to the company where they send you, all the supervisors are Hispanic,” Duty said.
Duty and other black MVP workers visited the business at 226 S. Sheridan Road on Thursday, Oct. 3, accompanied by local activist Chris “Brotha” Blanks, who said corporate hiring through temp agencies can be a way to exploit workers.
“Temp workers make lower wages, have no seniority, no benefits and they’re easy to get rid of,” Blanks said. “People who want and need full-time work are forced to come to these places.”
There are 12 licensed temp employers in Waukegan, according to Kevin Bueso, senior accountant for the city. Lake County Workforce Development has identified 32 such firms in Lake County, nearly half of them in Waukegan.
Jennifer Serino Stasch, Lake County Workforce Development director, said temp agencies are used to screen, test and find the right candidates until employers make a decision to hire.
“Employers are definitely utilizing that strategy,” Stasch said.
MVP, which has 20 offices in eight states, according to its website, subjects prospective hires “to an extensive verification and screening process prior to approval for placement” into its labor pool.
The company stopped sending Duty out on jobs last month, he said, after he sought employment directly through a Waukegan firm where he had worked for five months as a forklift driver.
“I had a good work record, worked myself from third shift to first shift,” Duty said. “I talked to the boss. I explained I need insurance. I need a permanent job. He said ‘Send me a resume,’ and I did.”
When a job was posted, Duty said, he arranged an interview but, before he could keep it, he was told by a supervisor at MVP that the company that was hiring, and where Duty already worked as a temp, no longer wanted his services.
Duty claims the manager told him,“because you went through the front door.”