The United States Department of Labor recently filed a lawsuit against Tyson Fresh Meats (“Tyson”) charging Tyson with systemic discrimination against women in its hiring practices at its Joslin plant in Illinois. The complaint seeks to terminate all of the federal government’s contracts with Tyson until the company remedies the alleged discriminatory hiring practices. Tyson Fresh Meats, a subsidiary of poultry giant Tyson Foods, Inc, is the world’s largest supplier of premium beef and pork.
The DOL’s complaint alleges that Tyson engaged in systemic discrimination in its hiring process by unlawfully rejecting 750 qualified female applicants seeking entry level positions. The complaint demands that Tyson employ over 100 of the rejected female applicants and seeks back wages for the affected female applicants.
In addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Tyson, as a federal government contractor, is also subject to an Executive Order which prohibits federal contractors from discriminatory hiring practices. Not only is the federal government seeking to terminate all of its contracts with Tyson, it is also seeking to bar them from receiving federal government contracts in the future. The DOL has stated that “taxpayer dollars must never be used to discriminate.”
Tyson representatives have responded that “there were legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons certain applicants were not hired.” Tyson has stated that “this is really about documentation not discrimination” and based on an “audit of job application forms.” Tyson claims that nobody seeking a job at its facilities has filed a complaint. Although the federal government charges that Tyson’s discriminatory hiring date back to 2003 to the present, Tyson claims that it had procedures in place and retained documents supporting its non-discriminatory hiring decisions. Tyson claims that for the time period in question, 28% of its work force was compromised of females and 66% were minorities.
This is an excellent cautionary reminder that employers, who are federal government contractors, must not engage in discriminatory practices and also must maintain proper documentation regarding its hiring practices. Here, it is possible that Tyson did not engage in any unlawful discrimination but it may not have the documentation to defend its practices. The government’s complaint was not based on any complaints filed by rejected applicants. It was based on an audit by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Clearly it is wise to have procedures supporting your decision-making than to be exposed to a court order and financial liability. The experienced Employment Attorneys at Villanueva and Sanchala have helped many companies implement procedures to protect against claims of not only gender discrimination and sexual harassment but also age, race, national origin, disability, religion, and sex discrimination. E-mail or call us now at (800) 893-9645 for a free initial telephone consultation.
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