Tyson Fresh Meats (“Tyson”), a subsidiary of Tyson Meats, and a federal contractor entered into a settlement this week with the U.S. Labor Department for allegations that it engaged in sex discrimination. Pursuant to the consent decree, Tyson has agreed to pay $2.25 in back wages, interest and benefits to over 1,650 female job applicants who it denied employment to at four of its facilities. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”), this is one of its largest settlements in its history. Our firm has helped many companies place employment policies and procedures to help prevent discriminatory practices and thus avoid major lawsuits which could financially cripple your business.
During the Labor Department’s compliance reviews with Tyson, the OFCCP found that Tyson had violated Executive Order 11246 which makes it illegal for federal contractors to discriminate based on sex. According to the settlement, Tyson will pay out the $2.25 million to the female job applicants it rejected. Tyson will also offer jobs to at least 220 of these women as positions open up at its facilities. Tyson has also agreed to extensive self monitoring and corrective measures to make sure that it does not engage in any illegal employment practices.
Tyson has stated that it had legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for not hiring these women. Ken Kimbro, chief human resources officer for Tyson Meats, stated that “this was really about documentation, not discrimination” and that the “charges were strictly based on a statistical analysis of job applications at the plant, not on complaints by any applicants.”
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has stated that “companies that profit from federal contracts must not discriminate in employment decisions.” Tyson received federal contracts totaling over $200 million in each of the past 3 years and was also given another $8 million contract for its beef and pork products at stores in Guam. Not just Executive Order 11246, but he OFCCP’s legal authority under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veteran’s Readjustment Assistant Act of 1974 also provide that if you are a contractor or sub-contractor doing business with the government, you must not engage in employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.
This historical settlement sends out a clear message to all companies that if you do business with the government, do no engage in any type of discriminatory practices and have documentation to back up your defense. Whether Tyson engaged in discriminatory practices or not, it learned the expensive way that it should have maintained documentation regarding its employment practices. When doing business with the government, make sure you maintain and retain proper documentation regarding all facets of employment from hiring to firing. If you are in business with the government, you can be audited any time.
Our attorneys at Villanueva & Sanchala have helped many companies who have contracts with the government put policies and procedures in place to ensure that they have proper documentation to support their employment decisions. If you have any government contracts, call our Employment Discrimination Attorneys at (800) 893-9645 to help make sure your company has policies and procedures to support its employment practices.
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