Federal civil rights officials claim Gig Harbor-based SmartTalent violated federal law by refusing to assign female workers to certain temporary jobs.

For the past seven years, SmartTalent, a staffing firm, requested only male workers for certain temporary jobs based on the client’s request, attorneys for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a lawsuit filed last month. These jobs included assignments at warehouses that clients and managers said could only be fulfilled by men.

SmartTalent vice president of operations Stephanie Ticknor said the company disagrees with the allegations in the EEOC lawsuit, adding that they were based on “speculation and unfounded allegations from 2016.” Ticknor and the EEOC did not specify 2016 allegations.

The suit said recruiters witnessed SmartTalent managers telling them to hire men for labor-intensive jobs because it was what the client wanted. On another occasion, a manager told a recruiter they should stop complaining, EEOC attorneys contend, while asserting that, on another occasion, a recruiter told a female worker that they did not belong in a warehouse.

Pay rates for female workers were also lower than for men, which, adding to the lack of opportunities, led to a loss of income and job opportunities, the suit alleges.

“Recruiters sent internal emails seeking to fill positions that specified the sex of the worker to comply with business clients’ requests for male workers,” the suit filed in federal court read.

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The EEOC is the federal body that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. 

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EEOC attorneys Teri Healy and Nancy Sienko said client preferences don’t “excuse sex-based discrimination,” and that temp workers are more vulnerable to a lack of opportunities because of “long-standing stereotypes about ‘men’s work’ versus ‘women’s work.’ ”

The agency is seeking monetary payments and compensation for lost wages, as well as ongoing monitoring procedures to ensure SmartTalent complies with the law moving forward.