The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has filed a lawsuit against Pilgrim’s, alleging the poultry company systematically discriminated against qualified African-American applicants seeking entry-level jobs as laborers and operatives at its plant in Marshville, North Carolina.

"Discrimination will not be tolerated by employers who profit from government contracts," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. "OFCCP will use every action available by law, including canceling Pilgrim's federal contracts if necessary, to ensure workers are treated fairly."

Lawsuit second against Pilgrim's in past 30 days

The complaint results from an OFCCP investigation into the company's selection procedures. This is the second lawsuit filed by OFCCP against the company in less than 30 days. The first complaint, filed on September 15, alleges that Pilgrim's systematically discriminated against qualified African-American, Caucasian, and female applicants for entry-level laborer and operative positions at its chicken plant in Athens, Alabama. Both complaints were filed with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges and seek complete make-whole relief, including instatement of qualified black applicants at the chicken processing facility, payment of lost wages, interest, front wages, and other fringe benefits, including but not limited to retroactive seniority.

OFCCP stated that it reviewed the two facilities for compliance with Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against job applicants on the basis of race and national origin. The agency said that in 2007 and 2008, the Marshville facility's selection criteria were inconsistently applied, unfairly discriminating against African-American applicants. OFCCP also found that Pilgrim's Pride failed to maintain records and to perform in-depth analyses of its employment processes to determine if impediments to equal employment opportunity existed, as required by Pilgrim's federal contracts and OFCCP regulations.

From 2007 to 2011, Pilgrim's received more than $36 million in federal contracts as a provider of poultry to agencies such as the departments of Defense and Agriculture, according to the OFCCP.