Labor Department sues Tyson for discrimination

by Staff
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor has filed an administrative complaint against Tyson Fresh Meats, a subsidiary of Tyson Foods, Inc., Springdale, Ark., alleging the company rejected female job applicants at its plant in Joslin, Ill. The complaint is requesting that all of Tyson’s federal contracts be canceled and the company be debarred from future government contracts until it has corrected the violations.

“The Labor Department is firmly committed to ensuring that federal contractors give all individuals a fair and equal chance at employment,” said Patricia A. Shiu, director of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “Taxpayer dollars must never be used to discriminate. In our efforts to uncover workplace discrimination, O.F.C.C.P. will utilize a host of remedies, including debarment, to protect workers, promote diversity and enforce the law.”

An O.F.C.C.P. investigation showed Tyson used a hiring process and selection procedures that discriminated against women seeking entry-level positions. The O.F.C.C.P. also believes that more than 750 women are owed back wages and more than 100 women should be given the option of working for the company.

“We’re disappointed the Department of Labor has taken this course of action,” said Ken Kimbro, senior vice-president and chief human resources officer for Tyson. “Contrary to the impression left by the government’s allegation, it is our policy to provide a work environment free from unlawful discrimination.

“We believe this is really about documentation, not discrimination. The O.F.C.C.P.’s charges are solely based on an audit of job application forms at the plant, not on complaints by anyone who came to us seeking a job. We believe there were legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons certain applicants were not hired.”

Mr. Kimbro also said since the audit in 2003 and 2004 Tyson has put procedures into place to ensure it keeps documentation to support its hiring decisions and said the company routinely audits its practices to ensure there are no disparities against minority job applicants.

This news also follows another recent O.F.C.C.P. litigation involving a different Tyson subsidiary, TNT Crust, for systematically discriminating against Latino applications in its entry-level position hiring.

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