By Leigh Morris
For the Star-Gazette
In response to federal allegations of employment practices discrimination, Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. has agreed to pay $2.2 million into a settlement fund to benefit 2,959 people who were rejected for employment between 2005 and 2009.
According to the U.S. Labor Department Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), affected job applicants included both white and black applicants at the Beardstown pork plant. Also affected were female applicants at the company’s Springdale, Ark., turkey plant and both white and Hispanic applicants at the Fort Morgan, Colo., beef plant.
"This settlement will benefit thousands of workers who were subjected to unfair discrimination," U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a statement.
“The decision to settle was not taken lightly, because we work hard every day to ensure compliance with all hiring laws, and we have an unwavering commitment to diversity and equal employment opportunity,” said Cargill Senior Vice President Bill Buckner in a news release issued by Cargill.
Referring to the three plants, Buckner said: “They have diverse employee populations, representing dozens of nationalities. It’s a fact we take great pride in, especially because these communities are thriving with economic prosperity that results from the diverse Cargill employee population.”
In addition to the settlement fund for the impacted applicants, Cargill agreed to make 354 job offers to affected workers as positions become available, according to the Labor Department. Also, the department reported the company will improve its internal practices to ensure hiring practices comply with the law.
Buckner said: “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. We will continue to hire the best candidates available from those who apply for positions at our plants. People make Cargill the great organization it is, and we believe we have the best.”
Cargill Meat Solutions is a unit of Cargill Inc., which is based in Minneapolis. Cargill Inc. is one of the world’s largest privately owned companies. According to Cargill’s website, the conglomerate recorded net earnings of $2.31 billion for 2013 on revenue totaling $136.6 billion. Cargill has about 142,000 employees in 67 countries.