Indiana Packers Corp. released a statement today, responding to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that claims the Delphi, Ind.-based pork processor hires undocumented workers in order to suppress worker wages. The complaint was filed by a former employee against two members of the human-resources department, and it seeks class-action status in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
Indiana Packers Corp., in the statement, lamented the timing and communication of the lawsuit as well, saying, "As has become an unfortunate but common tactic, it appears the lawsuit was strategically released ... timed to fall near the end of the day, just in time to catch the evening news cycle." Additionally, Indiana Packers said notice of the lawsuit was "first sent to the company by the media."
The company would not speculate on motives for the claims of the former employee, and stated that it would respond formally in court, but it did make two points in its own defense.
First, Indiana Packers stated that, although the allegations were claimed to have occurred over a four-year period of time, "the plaintiff was only employed for two brief stints and he had nothing to do with the company's hiring practices." According to a story that appeared in The Indianapolis Star after the lawsuit was filed, the former employee, Andrew O'Shea, was hired in 2013, later fired in 2014 "for insubordination," then hired back, after which he quit the job at an undetermined point in time. Further, in the complaint, O'Shea claims he overheard a supervisor say that if he needed more workers, that the human-resources department "will get me some more illegals."
Second, Indiana Packers pointed out that it had gone through an evaluation of its hiring practices during a government audit toward the end of 2014 and included a copy of the Notification of Inspection Results letter sent to Indiana Packers by the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"As part of that audit, officials with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement inspected company I-9 forms as well as supporting documentation," Jeff Feirick, vice president of Corporate Planning, said in the statement. "The outcome -- in which the government thanked Indiana Packers Corporation for its cooperation and concluded 'there is no basis for further investigation' obviously speaks for itself."
The lawsuit claims that the defendants knew applicants were using fake documents to pass E-Verify, but did not ask questions to prove potential employees were providing legal information.
The notification of compliance received by Indiana Packers from ICE was dated Oct. 22, 2014.