LEMOORE, Calif. (July 19, 2012) — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has entered into a consent decree with Leprino Foods Inc. to resolve charges of systemic hiring discrimination at the company’s Lemoore West facility.
The consent decree, signed today by an administrative law judge with the Labor Department, settles OFCCP’s allegations that Leprino Foods’ use of a pre-employment test called WorkKeys to select hires for on-call laborer positions resulted in discrimination against African-American job applicants and applicants of Asian and Hispanic descent.
“I am pleased that we were able to reach a fair settlement in this matter,” said OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu. “While employers can and should hire the most qualified workers for the job, they cannot create artificial barriers to employment that unfairly block any individual from competing for good jobs.”
OFCCP determined that Leprino Foods violated Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating on the bases of race, color, religion, sex and national origin in their employment practices. The agency made its findings after a scheduled compliance review in which OFCCP investigators conducted interviews, analyzed company data and reviewed documents provided by the company.
Through this review, OFCCP discovered that the administration of the WorkKeys exam had an adverse impact on minority job applicants for these specific positions. The agency further determined that the exam was not job-related, as it tested applicants’ skills in mathematics, locating information and observation – skills that are not critical to the entry-level tasks performed by on-call laborers, such as inspecting products, monitoring equipment and maintaining sanitation at the facility.
Under the terms of the consent decree, Leprino will pay $550,000 in back wages, interest and benefits to 253 minority workers who were rejected for on-call laborer positions between January 2005 and October 2006 because they failed the WorkKeys exam. Additionally, the company has agreed to discontinue use of the test for this purpose, hire at least 13 of the original class members, undertake extensive self-monitoring measures and immediately correct any discriminatory practices.
Leprino Foods is one of the largest producers of mozzarella cheese in the world and is based in Denver, Colo. Since 2005, the company has received contracts totaling nearly $50 million from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Services Agency to provide mozzarella and other dairy products to the federal government.
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. As amended, these three laws require those who do business with the federal government, both 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.