Labor Dept. sues Pilgrim's Pride for hiring discrimination

by Erica Shaffer
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DALLAS – Greeley, Colorado-based Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. systematically discriminated against female, African American and white job applicants at the company’s Mount Pleasant, Texas, processing facility, the US Dept. of Labor said in a lawsuit filed against Pilgrim’s. The company denied any wrongdoing.

The agency’s Office of Federal and Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), which filed the lawsuit with the Office of Administrative Law Judges, discovered in a compliance review that from July 2005 to July 2007, Pilgrim’s discriminated against African American and white applicants for semi-skilled jobs, and against female and white applicants for unskilled jobs at the processing facility.

“The company has won millions in federal contracts, but refuses to comply with anti-discrimination laws that apply to those contractors,” Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia A. Shiu, said in a statement. “When contractors accept federal funds, they agree to take steps to make sure taxpayer money is never used to discriminate in hiring or employment — something Pilgrim’s Pride has failed to do.”

But, in a statement, the company strongly disagreed with the OFCCP’s allegations, adding that the company will vigorously defend its hiring practices at trial.

“We are an equal opportunity employer that offers employment to qualified individuals without regard to sex, gender, age, race, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation or protected veteran status,” the company said. 

“The federal government’s continued attempt to solely use statistical analyses to identify contractor hiring shortfalls is misguided, as the US Department of Labor’s own court of appeals, or Administrative Review Board, ruled just last week in throwing out a nearly identical claim against the Bank of America. That case, also regarding more than 10 year old hiring claims, used the same failed legal analyses OFCCP has made against Pilgrim’s. 

“Significantly, not one of the thousands of Pilgrim’s applicants, nor any of the thousands of Pilgrim’s team members, have filed a single complaint with OFCCP in the past 11 years regarding Pilgrim’s hiring standards. 

“Legal actions such as this present no opportunity for true public-private partnerships that would benefit American workers of all orientations.”

OFCCP alleges that Pilgrim’s failed to:

Keep and preserve required personnel and employment records.

Properly conduct required analyses of whether its employment practices had an adverse impact on women or minority groups.

Show that the lifting requirements established for various positions were job-related and consistent with business necessity.

OFCCP is asking the court to force Pilgrim’s to hire affected applicants into semi-skilled and unskilled production jobs and to award them back pay and interest. Additionally, the department wants an order canceling all the company’s federal contracts and barring Pilgrim’s from entering into future federal contracts unless it remedies prior violations and comes into compliance with an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin, and requires contractors to ensure equal opportunity in employment.

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