Cargill To Pay $2.2 Million After Discrimination Claims In Springdale

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Cargill Meat Solutions will pay out $2.2 million to applicants who were wrongfully rejected from job considerations at various facilities, including the plant in Springdale, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The meat company, though, says it did not discriminate against the workers.

Cargill reached a settlement with the Labor Department after the government agency had sued the company while claiming hiring discrimination. Under the agreement, Cargill will pay $2,236,218 in back wages and interest to 2,959 applicants who were rejected for production jobs in Springdale, Fort Morgan, Colo., and Beardstown, Ill., between 2005 and 2009, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Department of Labor.

The department filed a lawsuit against the Springdale facility in November 2011, claiming applicants had been rejected because they were women. White and Hispanic applicants in Fort Morgan and white and black applicants in Beardstown were rejected from jobs based on their race, the department’s lawsuit stated.

Cargill released its own statement Thursday following the news of the settlement, stating the company did not discriminate against any applicants “and views the agency’s allegations as being unfounded and without merit.”

Cargill goes on to state, “After carefully weighing all options, Cargill chose to avoid the cost, business interruptions and uncertainty created by lengthy litigation.”

Compliance officers with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs allegedly found evidence that Cargill’s hiring practices in Arkansas, Colorado and Illinois violated federal laws banning the discrimination of employees and prospective employees based on sex, race or ethnicity.

Cargill contends the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs used a mathematical model to show alleged violations rather than compile actual evidence

“We will continue to hire the best candidates available from those who apply for positions at our plants,” the meat processing company said in a statement.

“This settlement will benefit thousands of workers who were subjected to unfair discrimination,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez in a statement. “And it demonstrates the Department of Labor’s commitment to ensuring that everybody has a fair and equal shot at competing for good jobs.”

In addition to the payout money, Cargill will also offer jobs to 354 of the affected workers as positions become available, according to the Department of Labor.

Cargill distributes beef, pork and turkey products. The company’s home office is in Wichita, Kan.

“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.”

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