Federal Contractor Hillshire Brands Will Pay $330,000 for Systemic Hiring Discrimination

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has entered into an agreement with federal contractor Hillshire Brands Co., formerly Sara Lee Food & Beverage, to resolve claims of systemic hiring discrimination. The settlement follows an investigation by OFCCP that determined Hillshire violated Executive Order 11246 by discriminating against 2,474 men who applied for semiskilled machine operator jobs at the company's sandwich production plant in Florence. 

OFCCP investigators found that these men were steered into dumper/stacker jobs, whereas women were generally steered into biscuit assembler jobs, despite the fact that both positions required the same qualifications. 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 positions available, the result was a significant hiring disparity for male applicants.

Under the terms of the conciliation agreement, Hillshire will pay $330,000 in back wages, interest and benefits to the rejected male applicants. The company will also make 73 job offers to the original class members as positions become available. Finally, 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. 

During the review period, the Sara Lee Corp., then parent company of the Florence plant, received more than $14 million in federal contracts to distribute its products to the Defense Commissary Agency. In 2012, the facility became a subsidiary of Hillshire Brands, a Chicago-based food company that produces meat products under brand names, such as Aidells, Ball Park, Gallo Salame, Golden Island Jerky, Jimmy Dean and State Fair. On Aug. 28, 2014, the Hillshire Brands Co. merged with Tyson Foods Inc., creating a single company with more than $40 billion in annual sales.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. These three laws require those who do business with the federal government, contractors and subcontractors, to follow the fair and reasonable standard that they not discriminate in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran.

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