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Feds sue popular NYC electronics store for discrimination

NEW YORK -- The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has filed a discrimination lawsuit against electronics retailer B&H Photo-Video in New York City.

In a statement released Thursday, the agency claims B&H Foto & Electronics Corp. "systematically discriminated against Hispanic employees and female, black and Asian job seekers at its Brooklyn Navy Yard warehouse."

The agency said B&H only hired Hispanic men into its entry-level laborer job group, and excluded females and most black and Asian employees.

The lawsuit also claims Hispanic workers were subjected to racist and degrading remarks and were paid at a lower rate than comparable white workers.

In addition, the OFCCP found the Brooklyn warehouse "relegated Hispanic warehouse workers to separate, unsanitary and often inoperable restrooms," lacked restroom or changing facilities for women, and did not keep and preserve required personnel and employment records.

OFCCP is seeking wages, promotions and other lost benefits of employment.

"If B&H fails to provide relief as ordered, OFCCP requests that all its government contracts be canceled and that it be debarred from entering into future federal contracts," the Labor Department said, adding that B&H has contracts with the General Services Administration and the FBI "valued in excess of $46 million."

A spokesman for B&H declined to comment. The family owned business is the largest non-chain photo and video equipment store in the U.S.

The New York Times reported B&H has a history of labor disputes. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission monitored its hiring and compensation practices from 2009 to 2012 as part of a settlement in a prior discrimination suit.

The company agreed in that case to pay $4.3 million to 149 employees who were paid less, withheld from promotions or denied benefits because they were Hispanic, the newspaper said.

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