CHICAGO – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced on Oct. 7 that meat processor Chicago Meat Authority (CMA) would pay $1.1 million along with other relief to settle a race discrimination case.

The agency charged CMA with discriminating against Black applicants for positions at the company, subjecting Black employees to racial harassment and firing a Black Employee in retaliation for complaining about racial harassment.

Investigations by the EEOC concluded that the company favored hiring Hispanic employees over African American employees even though CMA is located in a largely Black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The agency also said it found that Black employees were subject to repeated racial slurs by co-workers and managers.

CMA released a statement on the settlement to MEAT+POULTRY and said the case dated back to 2018.

“This case was the result of complaints by a handful of employees who had been terminated by the company at the beginning of 2013,” said Jordan Dorfman, founder and president of Chicago Meat Authority. “CMA denied all claims but fully cooperated in a thorough investigation conducted by the EEOC that resulted in the EEOC abandoning certain claims. But after more than three years of legal proceedings, the company has made a business decision to settle the case, without any admission of improper practices, rather than continue with a very costly defense.”

Dorfman continued: “Though it may seem that settling this case was somehow an admission of fault, nothing could be further from the truth. This does not mean that as an employer we haven’t learned from this experience or had cause to evaluate what we can do better.” 

Jordan added, “We believe that as a company, achieving diversity in our team is a strength. In fact, it is a goal of CMA, and not simply a rote exercise to satisfy a governmental regulation.”

The consent decree for the case was entered into at the US District Court for the Northern District of IIIinois in Chicago.

Along with the monetary settlement, the decree prohibits the company from discriminating in the future. It also mandates the hiring of rejected applicants who still want jobs at the company, requires the company to make good faith efforts to reach hiring goals for Black employees and mandates implementation of anti-harassment training and policies.

“Stopping race discrimination in hiring is one of the fundamental objectives the EEOC was created to address more than 50 years ago,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for EEOC Chicago. “Unfortunately, there is a continuing need for law enforcement work in this area. The consent decree in Chicago Meat Authority makes a very important contribution to that work by providing job opportunities to qualified applicants who were denied them in the past, and requiring that the company take steps to reform its hiring practices in the future.”