Cargill Meat Solutions, headquartered in Wichita, Kan., has agreed to settle charges of hiring discrimination based on race and sex with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Under the agreement, Cargill will pay $2,236,218 in back wages and interest to 2,959 applicants who were rejected for production jobs at facilities in Springdale, Ark.; Fort Morgan, Colo.; and Beardstown, Ill., between 2005 and 2009. The affected workers include: female applicants at Springdale and Fort Morgan, Caucasian and Hispanic applicants at Fort Morgan, and African American and Caucasian applicants at Beardstown.
"This settlement will benefit thousands of workers who were subjected to unfair discrimination," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "And it demonstrates the Department of Labor's commitment to ensuring that everybody has a fair and equal shot at competing for good jobs."
During a series of scheduled reviews, OFCCP compliance officers found evidence that Cargill's hiring processes and selection procedures at facilities in Arkansas, Colorado and Illinois violated Executive Order 11246by discriminating on the bases of sex, race and/or ethnicity. The reviews also uncovered violations of the Executive Order's record-keeping requirements. The Department of Labor filed a lawsuit regarding violations at the Springdale facility in November 2011 and this settlement resolves the issues in that complaint as well as the two other reviews.
"Discrimination should never be used to justify favoring one group of workers over others," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. "I am pleased that Cargill has agreed to put a proactive strategy in place to address this issue through new hiring procedures and in-depth training on combating stereotypes."
In addition to paying more than $2.2 million in back wages and interest to the affected applicants, Cargill has agreed to extend 354 job offers to the affected workers as positions become available. Additionally, the company has agreed to undertake extensive self-monitoring measures to ensure that all hiring practices fully comply with the law, including record-keeping requirements.
In a statement, Cargill Senior Vice President Bill Buckner said, “The decision to settle was not taken lightly, because we work hard every day to ensure compliance with all hiring laws, and we have an unwavering commitment to diversity and equal employment opportunity. The plants involved in the bundled settlement include Fort Morgan, Colo. (beef); Springdale, Ark. (turkey); and Beardstown, Ill. (pork). They have diverse employee populations, representing dozens of nationalities. It's a fact we take great pride in, especially because these communities are thriving with economic prosperity that results from the diverse Cargill employee population."
Buckner continued, "We are disappointed with the way OFCCP uses a mathematical model to allege violations in the absence of evidence. We believe the agency needs to change the way it applies the law to ensure that OFCCP is not forcing employers to violate – by using quotas – the very laws the agency is supposed to be enforcing. We will continue to hire the best candidates available from those who apply for positions at our plants. People make Cargill the great organization it is, and we believe we have the best."
Sources: Department of Labor, Cargill