Koch Foods has agreed to a $3.75 million settlement in a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of 11 workers at the Koch Foods poultry plant in Morton, Mississippi.
The lawsuit alleges that Koch Foods subjected Hispanic and female employees to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment based on their race and sex. The allegations include inappropriate touching and sexually suggestive comments, hitting Hispanic employees and charging some Hispanic workers money for their normal everyday work activities. The suit also alleges the company then retaliated against some who complained.
The alleged actions are a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, EEOC stated in a press release.
In the settlement, Koch Foods agreed to pay $3.75 million to the plaintiffs. The company also agreed to take specific actions to prevent future discrimination. Those actions include providing anti-discrimination training to employees; creating a 24-hour hotline for reporting discrimination complaints in English and Spanish; and posting anti-discrimination policies and notices in its workplace in English and Spanish.
"We commend Koch Foods for its commitment to settle this case, which contained serious allegations of harassment," said EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker. "The significant monetary award, the corrective measures in this decree, including EEOC monitoring, should prevent this kind of alleged misconduct in the future."
Bradley Anderson, the EEOC's district director for the Birmingham district office, added, "We take allegations of abuse seriously. No one working in America deserves to be harassed in the workplace, and, as evidenced in this lawsuit, the EEOC will engage in vigorous law enforcement efforts to protect workers."
In other litigation-related matters, Koch Foods was one of more than a dozen top poultry companies that have been accused in a class-action lawsuit of conspiring to raise chicken prices. The suit was filed on behalf of Kroger, Albertsons and Hy-Vee.
Koch Foods is the fifth largest broiler company in the United States. It is headquartered in Illinois, but has locations in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio and Tennessee. According to the WATTAgNet Top Poultry Companies Database, it processed 50 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken on a weekly basis in 2017.