CARGILL Meat Solutions Corp. announced last week that it has settled hiring discrimination allegations made by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) involving three of its U.S. meat processing plants.
The company believes it did not discriminate against any applicant and views the agency's allegations as unfounded and without merit. After carefully weighing all options, however, Cargill chose to avoid the cost, business interruptions and uncertainty created by lengthy litigation and will pay more than $2 million into a settlement fund.
According to an OFCCP statement, the agency found evidence, during a series of scheduled reviews by its compliance officers, that Cargill's hiring process at facilities in Arkansas, Illinois and Colorado violated Executive Order 11246 by discriminating on the basis of sex, race and/or ethnicity. That order prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors that exceed $10,000 from discriminating in employment decisions.
The facilities included a beef plant in Ft. Morgan, Colo.; a turkey plant in Springdale, Ark., and a pork plant in Beardstown, Ill.
"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," Cargill senior vice president Bill Buckner said. "The plants involved ... 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 added, "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."
Under the agreement, the OFCCP statement said Cargill will pay $2.236 million in back wages and interest to 2,959 applicants who were rejected for production jobs at the three facilities between 2005 and 2009. In addition, Cargill agreed to extend 354 jobs to the affected workers as positions become available.