US Labor Department files complaint against Colorado-based cheese producer for discriminating against minority job applicants at California facility
Back wages and job offers sought for African-American, Asian and Hispanic applicants; debarment from future government contracts recommended
LEMOORE, Calif. —The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs today filed a complaint with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges against federal contractor Leprino Foods Co. for discriminating against qualified African-American, Asian and Hispanic applicants for on-call laborer positions at the company's Lemoore West facility.
The administrative complaint seeks back wages and interest for at least 270 class members, as well as job offers for at least 17 of the original applicants. OFCCP also is requesting that Leprino Foods' existing federal contracts be canceled and the company be debarred from entering into any future contracts until the violations are resolved and the company corrects its discriminatory employment practices.
"Leprino Foods' hiring process simply doesn't pass the sniff test," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. "When workers are denied employment because of factors that have nothing to do with their ability to perform the job, something is not right. Our message to the company is clear: Correct your discriminatory practices and make restitution to the victims or lose your lucrative federal contracts."
Under Executive Order 11246, federal contractors cannot discriminate in employment practices with regard to race and national origin. Data collected from Leprino Foods showed that the company's use of a job skills assessment called the WorkKeys exam adversely impacted minority applicants. During OFCCP's review, which examined hiring practices for a 22-month period, the agency found that only 49 percent of otherwise qualified minority applicants passed the exam, compared with more than 72 percent of non-minority applicants. OFCCP could not substantiate the employer's claim that the exam measured applied math, workplace observation and information location skills related to the essential functions of on-call laborers. On-call laborers perform a variety of entry-level tasks, including inspecting products, monitoring equipment and maintaining sanitation at the facility.
Denver-based Leprino Foods is the nation's largest producer of mozzarella cheese. The company has contracts totaling $5 million with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide mozzarella and whey products to the Farm Services Agency.
In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP's legal authority exists under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. As amended, these three laws hold those who do business with the federal government, both contractors and subcontractors, to 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. For general information, call OFCCP's toll-free helpline at 800-397-6251. Additional information is available at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.
Solis v. Leprino Foods Co.