LITTLE ROCK — Springdale-based Tyson Foods has agreed to pay $1.6 million to about 5,700 rejected job applicants to settle hiring-discrimination claims brought against the company by the U.S. Department of Labor, the company and the agency said Tuesday.
The agency’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs alleged that Tyson’s hiring processes and selection procedures at six facilities violated a federal order prohibiting discrimination based on sex, race or ethnicity. The $1.6 million will go to 5,716 applicants who were rejected at facilities in Rogers; Russellville; Houston; Amarillo, Texas; Sherman, Texas; and Saint Theresa, New Mexico.
Tyson also agreed to extend job offers to 474 of the rejected applicants when positions become available and to revise its hiring and training practices.
“Federal contractors are obligated to give every applicant a fair and equal shot at competing for good jobs,” OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu said in a news release. “Tyson has agreed to fully cooperate to remedy past violations and ensure its selection practices at these facilities are in full compliance with the law. Together, we can achieve the common goal of equal employment opportunities for all employees and applicants.”
Tyson said in a statement Tuesday it disagrees with the allegations but chose to pay the settlement to avoid the cost of going to trial.
“We’re disappointed by the OFCCP’s claims, since we work hard to comply with all hiring laws and to treat all job applicants fairly,” said Lola Hithon, Tyson’s vice president of employment compliance.
Tyson said the allegations were based not on complaints from the applicants but on a statistical review of job applications from six to nine years ago. It said all of the applicants were rejected for “legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.”
The company also said that through its normal hiring practices it has already hired 60 percent of the people from the affected gender and ethnic groups it is required to employ as part of the settlement.
Tyson said it has instituted a new electronic hiring system that requires applicants to apply online, improving the company’s ability to document and monitor the application process.