Earlier this week it was announced that Tyson Fresh Meats is to pay $2.25 million in order to settle sex discrimination cases with the United States Labor Department.  In a press release from the US Department of Labor, over sixteen hundred qualified female applicants were denied jobs at 4 Tyson Meats plants in the Midwest.  One of the largest processors of beef and pork, Tyson is also a federal contractor, which leads them to be required to have an up to date written AAP that demonstrates their EEO efforts and goals.

Aside from the $2.25 million settlement in back wages, interest, and benefits, Tyson will also be offering jobs to 220 of the impacted women as jobs with the plants become available.

According to a quote from Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor, “Companies that profit from federal contracts must not discriminate in employment decisions.  Today’s settlement, one of the largest in OFCCP’s history, means that women who were unfairly denied job opportunities will be compensated.”

During an interview with the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, Tyson Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Ken Kimbro explained that the Tyson settlement that the alleged hiring violations occurred 8 to 9 years ago, from 2002 to 2004.  The OFCCP charges were based on a statistical analysis of job applications, not on any applicant complaints.  This indicates the extreme importance of documentation during the hiring process, as well as the need to recruit from diverse applicant pools.

HR Professionals may be surprised to find out that while employee complaints occur, OFCCP audits without complaints frequently lead to lawsuits.  There are a number of things that companies should consider in order to proactively protect against a similar fate.

First, government contractors and sub-contractors need to consider equality in hiring.  By ensuring that your company’s hiring practices are unbiased and fair, you are safeguarding your company should an audit ever arise. Establishing applicant tracking systems as well as application practices will allow each candidate to be screened and tracked in the exact same fashion, allowing your company to easily demonstrate that all applicants are treated equally and that there is an unbiased system in place utilized to determine the most qualified candidate, regardless of Affirmative Action status.

Second, ensuring that all employees involved in the hiring process are trained regarding affirmative action, equal employment opportunities, and internal hiring policies will ensure that all applicants and new employees are considered and treated equally.

Next, documentation will be key in the case of an audit.  Tyson’s president even mentioned that he believes their case was a case about documentation, not about discrimination.  Keeping track of employee information including race, religion, gender, position, responsibilities, pay, etc.  Having in depth documentation as to who has received positions, or not received positions, and why, reasons for pay levels, experience, etc will all help your company easily prove that your company has made reasonable efforts to comply with EEO and has justification for situations in which you may have deviated from it.

Finally, perform frequent self audits.  By remaining vigilant within your own company and looking at it through the eyes of the OFCCP or Department of Labor, you will maintain a strong understanding of your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

These tips will help your company to be prepared should you face an OFCCP audit.  If you have any additional questions about this situation, please do not hesitate to contact us.