Feds allege Jennie-O discriminated against Minnesota women
WILLMAR, Minn. - Jennie-O Turkey Store will hire 53 women and pay nearly a half-million dollars in back wages to 339 female job applicants who were denied entry-level jobs at its Willmar turkey-processing facility.
WILLMAR, Minn. – Jennie-O Turkey Store will hire 53 women and pay nearly a half-million dollars in back wages to 339 female job applicants who were denied entry-level jobs at its Willmar turkey-processing facility.
The action settles a U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit alleging Jennie-O discriminated in its hiring practices on the basis of gender. Jennie-O Turkey Store denies its employment practices were discriminatory.
“We reiterate our commitment to a discrimination-free workplace for our employees and disagree with the Department of Labor’s claims,” said Pat Solheid, vice president of human resources and administration, in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon.
But Solheid said the company agreed to a settlement, which will “avoid further litigation and allow us to move forward with our business.”
The lawsuit stemmed from a review of Jennie-O’s selection practices by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
During that review, it is alleged Jennie-O had a “pattern or practice of discrimination against women” who were qualified applicants for entry-level laborer positions during a period from “at least” February 2009 to February 2010.
According to an administrative law judge’s consent decree issued last week, the federal office determined that, “in the absence of discrimination, at least 53 additional females from a class of 395 qualified female applicants would have been hired during that one-year period.”
Patricia A. Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said in a news release that establishing - and following - non-discriminatory selection procedures can prevent workplace discrimination.
“Jennie-O has worked proactively with our agency to resolve the agency’s findings of discrimination and has agreed to train personnel involved in the selection process to ensure that non-discriminatory policies are carried out going forward,” Shiu said.
With the settlement, Jennie-O forfeits any option for appealing the decree and agrees there will be no retaliation against any individual who provided information pertaining to the lawsuit or against the women who will benefit from the $491,861 settlement fund.
The judge’s order lays out specific directions and timelines for how Jennie-O will contact the women who should have been hired or are eligible to receive a portion of the settlement fund.
According to the news release from the Department of Labor, Jennie-O Turkey Store has received nearly $360 million in federal contracts as a supplier to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for schools and food banks.
Based in Willmar, Jennie-O Turkey Store is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corporation and has nearly 7,000 employees. It is the nation’s second largest producer of whole and processed turkey products sold to retail and food service outlets.