On April 12, 2016, Prince Lobel Attorneys Hugh Gorman and Jeffrey Pyle obtained an injunction on behalf of Federal Concrete, Inc., a woman-owned business enterprise, requiring the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to abide by existing regulations and the U.S. Constitution in certifying minority owned business entities (“MBEs”). For years, the Commonwealth’s Supplier Diversity Office illegally certified Portuguese-owned businesses as minority business enterprises, thereby allowing them to participate in set-aside programs meant for properly-certified MBEs and women owned firms (“WBEs”). As a result of this wrongful classification, Portuguese-owned businesses ended up with the lion’s share of MBE building subcontracts, effectively squeezing out legitimately-classified WBEs and MBEs.
The Suffolk Superior Court (Curran, J.) granted Federal Concrete all of the equitable relief it requested in its motion for a preliminary injunction, ordering the Supplier Diversity Office to stop certifying Portuguese-owned businesses as MBEs and to remove them from the database of WBE/MBE contractors bidding on Massachusetts public building projects. As Hugh Gorman states in a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article (available here), the decision “is a great result for Federal Concrete, but in reality, it’s a great result for all minority-owned and women-owned subcontractors in the state.” Pyle added: “The whole purpose of the MBE designation is to give opportunities to businesses that have been victims of past and current discrimination,” and the inclusion of businesses whose owners have not been subject to such discrimination rendered the program unconstitutional.