The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said Sept. 20 that Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. has agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle sex discrimination allegations at four of its plants.
Tyson has said the charges were based on statistical analyses, not complaints.
Under two consent orders, Dakota Dunes, South Dakota-based Tyson Fresh Meats will pay the $2.25 million in back wages, interest and benefits to more than 1,650 female job applicants who were rejected for employment at its facilities in Joslin, Illinois; West Point, Nebraska; and Waterloo and Denison, Iowa.
The DOL said that during scheduled compliance reviews of the four facilities, the OFCCP determined that Tyson Fresh Meats, a unit of Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc., had violated an executive order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sex.
Under terms of the consent decrees, the $2.25 million settlement will be divided among the rejected female job applicants.
Tyson also has agreed to offer jobs to at least 200 of the affected women as positions become available in the Illinois and Iowa locations; the Nebraska facility closed in 2006. Tyson also will “undertake extensive self-monitoring and corrective measures to ensure that its employment practices fully comply with the law,” the DOL said in its statement.
The federal agency said the consent decrees resolve the latest in a string of cases brought by OFCCP against Tyson Foods subsidiaries. In 2008, a law department administrative law judge ruled that Green Bay, Wis.-based TNT Crust had systemically discriminated against Latino applicants in its entry-level position hiring.
Last year, the OFCCP settled a case against Vernon, Texas-based Tyson Refrigerated Processed Meats after finding evidence that the company discriminated against 157 African-American and 375 Caucasian job applicants at the company’s bacon processing plant in Vernon.
Responding to a request for comment on the latest litigation, Tyson said in a statement that its officials have denied the claims, stating that there were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for not hiring the applicants.
Ken Kimbro, Tyson Foods senior vice president and chief human resources officer, said in a statement. “We believe this was really about documentation, not discrimination. The OFCCP’s charges were strictly based on a statistical analysis of job applications at the plant, not on complaints by any applicants, the types of jobs involved or the applicants' qualifications.”
“We remain committed to treating all job applicants fairly,” he said. “Tyson has a very diverse workforce and strict policies prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. We also communicate our position against discrimination through our core values and team member bill of rights.
“It's our policy to provide a work environment free of unlawful harassment and discrimination,” Mr. Kimbro said. “This position is also reinforced by the company’s code of conduct, which all our people are required to follow.”
Tyson also said that since the OFCCP audits, it has put procedures in place to ensure it retains documentation to support its hiring decisions. The company said it also routinely audits its hiring practices to ensure there is not any disparity among female or minority job applicants.
Tyson said the Joslin and Waterloo plants each employ 2,400 people, while the Denison plant has a staff of 380. During the audit periods covered by the OFCCP reviews, minorities represented 52 percent of the combined workforce at the four plants, while women represented 31 percent, according to Tyson.
Tyson also said that nearly 400 of the 1,650 female applicants who did not initially receive Tyson job offers were hired subsequently by the company before the OFCCP complaints were filed, and the OFCCP is giving the company credit for these hires.