Tyson Settles Employment Discrimination Suit with U.S. Dep’t of Labor

By: Ryan Mainhardt

Tyson Foods Inc., one of the world’s largest meat processors, recently settled federal lawsuits alleging sex discrimination against more than 1,650 women in four U.S. facilities in Joslin, Illinois; West Point, Nebraska; and Waterloo and Denison, Iowa.[1] The settlement will pay $2.25 million in back wages, interest and benefits, and Tyson has agreed to offer jobs to at least 220 of the female applicants as positions become available at the Illinois and Iowa plants.[2]

The original allegations relate to job applications received between 2002 and 2004.  Almost 400 of the women who did not receive employment offers from Tyson were later hired by the company before the Labor Department filed complaints.[3]

The U.S. Department of Labor and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) first decided to file suit after an investigation revealed that Tyson used a hiring process and selection procedures that discriminated against women seeking entry-level positions.[4]  The administrative complaint, filed in 2010 on behalf of 750 women at the Illinois plant, accused Tyson of violating Executive Order 11246, [5] which mandates that a federal contractor shall not discriminate in its hiring practices based on sex.[6]  The Order also empowers OFCCP to monitor companies with federal contracts and their compliance with the law.[7]

In addition to the Order, OFCCP’s legal authority exists under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, which hold contractors and subcontractors who do business with the federal government to the fair and reasonable standard that they not discriminate in employment on the basis of sex.[8]

Tyson officials denied the allegations, chalking it up to a case of “documentation, not discrimination,” and that the Labor Department’s charges were based on “statistical analysis of job applications at the plant, not on complaints by any applicants, the types of jobs involved or the applicants’ qualifications.”[9]

Tyson has received federal contracts totaling more than $200 million in each of the past three years and recently was awarded another $8 million contract to provide beef and pork products for resale at two commissary stores in Guam.[10]  The company is a major supplier for the U.S. Departments of Defense and Agriculture, in addition to being one of the largest employers in Joslin, Waterloo, and Denison.[11]


[1] Ameet Sachdev, Tyson to Pay $2.25 Million to Settle Sex Discrimination Charges, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 20, 2011, available at http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/breaking/chi-tyson-to-pay-225-to-settle-sex-discrimination-charges-20110920,0,2694016.story.

[2] Id. The West Point, Nebraska, plant closed in 2006.

[3] News Release, U.S. Department of Labor, Tyson Fresh Meats to Pay $2.25 Million to Settle Sex Discrimination Case with U.S. Department of Labor, (Sept. 20, 2011),  available at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ofccp/OFCCP20110799.htm.

[4] News Release, U.S. Department of Labor, US Labor Department Sues Tyson Fresh Meats for Systematic Discrimination Against Women, (Sept. 15, 2010), available at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ofccp/ofccp20101232.htm.

[5] Id.

[6] Exec. Order No. 11,246, 30 Fed. Reg. 12,319 (Sept. 24, 1965), amended by Exec. Order No. 11,478, 32 Fed. Reg. 14,303 (Oct. 13, 1967) (“It is desirable that the equal employment opportunity programs provided for in Executive Order No. 11246 expressly embrace discrimination on account of sex.”).

[7] Exec. Order No. 11,246, 30 Fed. Reg. 12,319 (Sept. 24, 1965).

[8] News Release, U.S. Department of Labor, Tyson Fresh Meats to Pay $2.25 Million to Settle Sex Discrimination Case with U.S. Department of Labor, (Sept. 20, 2011),  available at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ofccp/OFCCP20110799.htm

[9] Sachdev, supra note 1.

[10] Tess Stynes, Tyson to Pay $2.3 Million to Settle Sex Discrimination Charges, Wall Street Journal, Sept. 20, 2011,  available at http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20110920-709561.html.

[11] News Release, U.S. Department of Labor, Tyson Fresh Meats to Pay $2.25 Million to Settle Sex Discrimination Case with U.S. Department of Labor, (Sept. 20, 2011),  available at http://www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/ofccp/OFCCP20110799.htm.

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