By Jonathan Stempel
Jan 22 A unit of Cargill Inc, one of the world's
largest privately held companies, has agreed to pay $2.24
million to nearly 3,000 rejected job applicants to settle U.S.
Department of Labor charges of hiring discrimination based on
race and gender.
The Labor Department on Wednesday said the payment by
Cargill Meat Solutions represents back wages and interest, and
will go to 2,959 applicants who were turned down for production
jobs at three meat-processing plants between 2005 and 2009.
It said affected workers include female applicants in
Springdale, Arkansas; female, Caucasian and Hispanic applicants
in Fort Morgan, Colorado; and African-American and Caucasian
applicants in Beardstown, Illinois.
Cargill in a statement said the allegations by the Labor
Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs,
which reviews companies that do business with the government,
were "unfounded and without merit."
It said it believes it did not discriminate against any job
applicants, but settled to avoid the cost, disruptions and
uncertainty of lengthy litigation.
"The decision to settle was not taken lightly," Senior Vice
President Bill Buckner said in a statement. "We are disappointed
with the way OFCCP uses a mathematical model to allege
violations in the absence of evidence. We believe the agency
needs to change the way it applies the law to ensure that OFCCP
is not forcing employers to violate - by using quotas - the very
laws the agency is supposed to be enforcing."
As part of the settlement, Cargill agreed to make 354 job
offers to affected workers as positions become available, and
improve internal oversight to ensure its hiring practices comply
with the law, the Labor Department said.
"This settlement will benefit thousands of workers who were
subjected to unfair discrimination," U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas
Perez said in a statement.
Cargill is one of the world's largest food and agricultural
companies, posting a $2.31 billion profit on revenue of $136.7
billion in the year ending May 31, 2013. It employs about
142,000 people in 67 countries, according to its website.
Cargill is based in Minneapolis. Cargill Meat Solutions is
based in Wichita, Kansas, and includes North American beef,
pork, turkey, food service and food distribution businesses.