EEOC lawsuit accuses Wieland of discrimination

Thu, 04/30/2009 - 12:47pm
By: John Munford

John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, Inc., an Atlanta-based home builder that has numerous subdivisions in Fayette County, is being accused of unlawfully engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against black sales agents in a lawsuit filed today by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC’s suit, Wieland intentionally assigned African American sales agents to housing communities based on the race of the surrounding community. The lawsuit charges that these practices resulted in black agents earning significantly less than their white counterparts, who were assigned to housing communities where they sold higher-priced homes.

The EEOC began investigating the employer when a white human resources representative filed a discrimination charge with the agency stating that she was forced to participate in the discriminatory practice or face termination. Michelle Mouser served as a Wieland human resource representative in Atlanta and was responsible for recruiting sales agents to work onsite at new housing communities that were under construction.

The company’s management responsible for such hiring expressly stated that the goal was to hire and assign employees whose race corresponded with the predominant population of each community, according to the EEOC. Therefore Mouser was told that she could not hire qualified African American sales agents for communities with predominantly Caucasian populations, the EEOC said.

When Mouser complained about the company’s discriminatory practices to management officials, no action was taken, the EEOC alleged.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, EEOC officials said. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods, Inc. develops land and builds cluster homes, town homes, and upscale single-family homes in the metropolitan areas of Atlanta, Ga., Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C., Louisville, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn. Wieland also provides remodeling and landscaping services and offers mortgage lending to its customers.

The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Mouser, who felt she was forced to resign because she wouldn’t comply with the hiring scheme ordered by management. The agency is also seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the affected African-American sales agents for the period beginning in 2003. The lawsuit also seeks injunctive relief designed to stop the discrimination and prevent it from recurring in the future.

“Race discrimination is still an insidious but prevalent form of discrimination,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “All employees are entitled to a workplace free of racial discrimination. More importantly, all individuals, regardless of their race, have the right to the same employment opportunities. No one should be pigeon-holed into particular job assignments based solely on race. This lawsuit demonstrates that the EEOC takes such forms of discrimination seriously.”

In fiscal year 2008, the EEOC received 33,937 charges alleging race-based discrimination, accounting for 36 percent of the agency's private-sector caseload. Historically, race-based charges have been the most frequent type of filing with EEOC offices nationwide.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at

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Robert W. Morgan's picture
Submitted by Robert W. Morgan on Fri, 05/01/2009 - 6:54am.

When it comes to the Feds, nothing is better than discrimination. They love to prosecute these things. Friends who used to work for Wieland say this is something that has gone on for a long time, but it was not intentional discrimination, instead the intent was to align the salespeople demographically with the buying clientele - a perfectly reasonable idea and one that many retail stores actively engage in. But when race enters into it - look out.

Except in Florida where the big builders routinely hire 1 white (usually male) and 1 hispanic (usually female) to be the sales staff in their subdivisions. They get around the obvious favoritism (or discrimination) by making Spanish-speaking part of the job description. If Wieland tried that (and maybe he did) by saying a job requirement was to "speak in a certain way pleasing to black clientele" they would crucify him. In fact they are.

Wieland will lose this one and have to pay big bucks if the Feds can prove the sales people actually earned less than their white counterparts. And that should be easy to do - just get their 1099's and make a big chart for the mostly black jury in Fulton County to see.

Too bad, but more is coming and smaller fish than Wieland will be reeled in.

Your tax dollars at work.

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