Labor Dep’t Picks a Bone With Pilgrim’s Pride

     DALLAS (CN) — The Department of Labor wants to cancel more than $75 million in federal contracts with Pilgrim’s Pride for systematic discrimination against female, black and white jobseekers at a chicken plant east of Dallas.
     The Labor Department says the Greeley, Colo.-based chicken giant violated Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.
     It says Pilgrim’s Pride systematically discriminated against black and white applicants for semi-skilled jobs and against female and white applicants for unskilled jobs at a Mount Pleasant chicken processing plant from July 2005 to July 2007.
     The agency asked the Office of Administrative Law Judges to order Pilgrim’s Pride to hire the affected applicants with back pay and interest, prohibit it from further violations, and cancel current and future federal contracts until it complies with the order and remedies its violations.
     “The company has won millions in federal contracts, but refuses to comply with anti-discrimination laws that apply to those contractors,” said Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Patricia A. Shiu. “When contractors accept federal funds, they agree to take steps to make sure taxpayer money is never used to discriminate in hiring or employment — something Pilgrim’s Pride has failed to do.”
     The company has federal contracts with the Department of Agriculture.
     Pilgrim’s Pride denied the allegations Thursday, claiming the government used “misguided” statistical analyses “to identify contractor hiring shortfalls.” It said it will “vigorously defend our hiring practices” during trial.
     “Significantly, not one of the thousands of Pilgrim’s applicants, nor any of the thousands of Pilgrim’s team members, have filed a single complaint with OFCCP in the past 11 years regarding Pilgrim’s hiring standards,” the company said in a statement. “Legal actions such as this present no opportunity for true public-private partnerships that would benefit American workers of all orientations.”
     Pilgrim’s Pride, a subsidiary of Brazilian meat processor JBS S.A, is the second-largest chicken producer in the world. It operates in 12 U.S. states, Mexico and Puerto Rico and has approximately 35,000 employees.

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