‘We are not allowed to hire women on this job,’ EEOC says construction company told woman

A supervisor at a Davie construction company told a woman with 20 years’ experience operating heavy machinery, “We are not allowed to hire women on this job,” says a federal sexual discrimination lawsuit.

The EEOC filed the suit on behalf of Davie resident Colleen Bendel, who applied for jobs at BHT Constructions in 2017.

“My client disagrees with the allegations and with the accusations in the complaint,” BHT attorney Adi Amit says. “It is looking forward to its day in court to prove it did not discriminate against Ms. Bendel or anyone else. It is very important for my client to treat all employees and applicants equally and fairly.

“A close reading of the complaint shows that it is based on hearsay statements and on falsehoods.”

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The suit says BHT posted online in 2017 that it had openings for a heavy equipment operator, excavator operator and bulldozer operator, and Bendel applied online.

After she wasn’t contacted, the suit says, she learned BHT had hired Wendel Smith as an excavator operator. Smith told Bendel, with whom he’d worked previously, he had been hired right then and there at BHT’s Clewiston worksite. He told her to try going there.

The suit says worksite supervisor Peter Merritt told Bendel on Oct. 12, 2017, that BHT wasn’t hiring at the time, but might be again soon. After Bendel left, the lawsuit says, Merritt told Smith that BHT “do(es) not hire women.”

Smith relayed this to Bendel. The suit says she returned to the site on Oct. 24, 2017, and talked with Merritt.

“This time, Mr. Merritt told Ms. Bendel directly that ‘We are not allowed to hire women on this job,’” the suit says.

This sent her up the corporate food chain to Ariel Edry, BHT’s owner. Edry, the lawsuit says, claimed BHT had no such policy against hiring women and told her to email her resume to BHT Chief Operations Officer Yaniv Cohen.

A month and a half later, the suit says, Bendel did the sort of tryout at the Clewiston site for Cohen that Smith didn’t have to do. She worked an excavator machine.

“After her tryout, Ms. Bendel was told that there were new positions available,” the lawsuit says. “However, when Ms. Bendel spoke with Mr. Cohen, he told her that all available positions were full. Thereafter, Ms. Bendel spoke with Mr. Edry. Mr. Edry reassured Ms. Bendel that he heard that she did well in her tryout and further stated that he might be able to hire her for an upcoming project in West Palm Beach...”

She claims she didn’t hear from Edry again.

Asked about the possibility of this case ending in settlement, Amit said, “As in any other civil case, there is always the possibility of an amicable resolution; however, I am not in position to comment about the likelihood of a settlement at this time.”

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.