Human Resources News & Insights

EEOC takes aim at food distributor, claiming gender bias in hiring

HR pros are familiar with the EEOC’s plan to focus on cases of what it considers to be “systemic” discrimination. Here’s a prime example of the kind of situation they’re talking about.  

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Baltimore, the EEOC alleges that a national marketer and distributor of food products illegally refused to hire female candidates for positions at distribution centers nationwide.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, since at least 2004, Performance Food Group, Inc., has refused to hire women for a wide range of positions that included receiving clerk, yard jockey, driver, driver trainee, forklift operator, mechanic, dispatcher, fueler, meat cutter, meat packer, transportation supervisor and warehouse supervisor.

PFG senior vice presidents and other high-ranking management officials repeatedly made comments that were tantamount to directing managers to favor males and to discriminate against females, the EEOC charged.

According to the agency, company vice presidents openly proclaimed a gender bias, including stating that women can’t do warehouse work and asking, “Why would we ever waste our time bringing in females?” Vice presidents also said that women would slow down the operation and that it would be a good idea to get the females “out of here.”

Company officials also pressured one facility to discharge a female employee and asked why they continued to “hire these girls,” the EEOC said in the lawsuit.

‘Not interested’ in promoting woman

PFG also refused to promote Julie Lawrence to a position for which she was qualified, based on gender, officials said. Lawrence’s immediate supervisor urged her to apply for a promotion to a nighttime warehouse training supervisor position and gave her resume to a corporate vice president of operations for his consideration.

Despite this recommendation and the company’s own policy ,which says the company’s philosophy was to promote from within when possible, the vice president refused to look at Lawrence’s resume, stating, “I am not interested in seeing anything from a woman,” the EEOC charged.

The suit seeks lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and “other affirmative relief for Lawrence and other similarly situated women who were harmed by PFG’s discriminatory conduct,” the EEOC said.

According to its website, PFG employs more than 11,000 people nationwide. The company delivers national and proprietary-branded food and food-related products to more than 165,000 independent and national chain restaurants, quick-service eateries, pizzerias, theaters, schools, hotels, healthcare facilities and other institutions.

 

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