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Judy Greenwald

Cargill settles federal discrimination charges, disputes U.S. methodology

January 23, 2014 - 2:58pm


A Cargill Inc. unit has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle race and sex discrimination charges filed by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, but the company also criticized the agency's methodology for bringing charges.

Minneapolis-based Cargill said in a statement that the agency's charges are unfounded, and criticized the OFCCP's policy with regard to charging violations based on a mathematical model “in the absence of evidence.”

The department said Wednesday that Wichita, Kan.-based Cargill Meat Solutions will pay $2.2 million 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 department said the affected workers included 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 $2.2 million, Cargill has agreed to extend 354 job offers to the affected workers as positions become available, the department said. It has also agreed to undertake extensive self-monitoring measures to ensure that all hiring positions fully comply with the law, including record-keeping requirements, it said in its statement.

“Discrimination should never be used to justify favoring one group of workers over others,” said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu in a statement. “I am pleased that Cargill has agreed to put a proactive strategy in place to address this issue through new hiring procedures and in-depth training on combating stereotypes.”

Cargill responds

The company said in a statement it “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.”

“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 in the statement.

Mr. Buckner said the three plants involved in the settlement “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.”

Mr. Buckner said also, “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.”

 



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