FLORENCE, Ala. – A Hillshire Brands Co. plant in Florence, Ala., has entered an agreement to settle claims of systemic hiring discrimination at the facility.

The settlement comes after an Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) investigation found Hillshire discriminated against 2,474 men who applied for semi-skilled machine operator jobs at the company's sandwich production plant in Florence. Hillshire has agreed to pay $330,000 in back wages, interest and benefits to male applicants who were denied jobs assembling sandwiches.

OFCCP found that men were steered into dumper/stacker jobs, while women were generally hired into biscuit assembler jobs despite the fact that both jobs required the same qualifications. The agency said that during a 20-month review period from 2009 to 2010, 98 percent of applicants selected for biscuit assembler positions were women, and 99 percent of applicants selected for dumper/stacker positions were men. Because there were fewer dumper/stacker jobs available, the result was a significant hiring disparity for male applicants.

"There's nothing particularly feminine about assembling a breakfast sandwich," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. "Stereotypes about 'women's work' and 'men's work' become harmful when they stand between qualified workers and good job opportunities."

OFCCP said that Sara Lee Corp., then the parent company of the Florence facility, received more than $14 million federal contracts to distribute products to the Defense Commissary Agency. Federal law requires that companies that do business with the federal government, contractors or subcontractors abide by federal anti-discrimination laws.

Hillshire also agreed to make 73 job offers to the original class of complainants as positions become available. Additionally, the company will review and revise its selection process and provide better training to its hiring managers to eliminate practices that result in gender stereotyping.