Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation announced last week it has settled hiring discrimination allegations made by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) involving three of the company’s U.S. meat processing plants. The company believes it did not discriminate against any applicant and views the agency’s allegations as being unfounded and without merit. After carefully weighing all options, Cargill chose to avoid the cost, business interruptions and uncertainty created by lengthy litigation, and will pay $2.2 million into a settlement fund.
According to an OFCCP statement, It agency found evidence, during a series of scheduled reviews, that Cargill’s hiring process at facilities in Ark, Ill. and Colo. violated Executive Order 11246 by discriminating on the base of sex, race and/or ethnicity during a series of scheduled reviews by agency’s compliance officers. Executive Order 11246 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors that exceed $10,000 from discriminating in employment decision.
“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,” said Cargill Senior Vice President Bill Buckner. “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.”
Under the agreement according to OFCCP statement, 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.
In addition to paying the back wages, Cargill agreed to extend 354 jobs to the affected workers as positions become available.