Pilgrim's faces a second discrimination lawsuit
by Joel Crews
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ATLANTA – In the second legal action of its kind in the span of one month, the US Dept. of Labor filed a discrimination lawsuit against Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., claiming the poultry processing company’s hiring practices were unfair to qualified African-American applicants seeking jobs at its Marshville, NC-based plant.
According to the agency’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance (OFCCP), the complaint against Pilgrim’s was filed less than 30 days since a Sept. 15 lawsuit, which alleged systematic discrimination against qualified African-American, Caucasian and female candidates applying for entry- level laborer and operative positions at the Pilgrim’s plant in Athens Ala., which is no longer in operation.
“Discrimination will not be tolerated by employers who profit from government contracts,” said OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu.
Both lawsuits seek relief that includes instatement of qualified African-American applicants, payment of lost wages including interest, front wages and other fringe benefits, as well as retroactive seniority.
“OFCCP will use every action available by law, including canceling Pilgrim's federal contracts if necessary, to ensure workers are treated fairly,” Shiu said.
Both plants were reviewed by the OFCCP for compliance with Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against job applicants based on race and national origin. During the review, the agency concluded that the Marshville facility’s hiring criteria were not applied consistently and discriminated against African-American applicants in 2007 and 2008. The Athens facility’s selection criteria were also inconsistently applied.
As a result, some African-American, Caucasian and female applicants were denied employment despite having education and experience that was comparable to male and Hispanic applicants. Pilgrim’s Pride also failed to maintain records and analyze its employment processes, according to OFCCP, to determine if impediments to equal employment opportunity existed, which is required by Pilgrim's federal contracts and labor laws.
Greeley, Colo.-based JBS SA possesses 75 percent ownership of Pilgrim’s Pride, the second largest chicken-processing company in the US.