Poultry Supplier Pays $3.75 Million to Class of Hispanic Workers
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Koch Foods, one of the largest poultry suppliers in the world, will pay $3,750,000 and furnish other relief to settle a class employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC charged the company with sexual harassment, national origin and race discrimination as well as retaliation against a class of Hispanic workers at Koch's Morton, Miss., chicken processing plant.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Koch subjected individual plaintiff/intervenors and classes of Hispanic employees and female employees to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment based on their race/national origin (Hispanic), sex (female), and further retaliated against those who engaged in protected activity.1 EEOC alleges that supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities. Further, a class of Hispanic employees was subject to retaliation in the form of discharge and other adverse actions after complaining.
All this alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit (EEOC v. Koch Foods of Miss., LLC, Civ. No.11-00391 DPJ/FKB (S.D. Miss.)) on June 29, 2011 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC's case was later consolidated with the lawsuit previously filed by plaintiff/intervenors, Maria Cazorla, et. al. v. Koch Foods of Mississippi, LLC and Jessie Ickom, Civ. No. 10-00135-DPJ-FKB. The plaintiff-intervenors were represented by Southern Migrant Legal Services, a special project of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, in Nashville, Tenn., and Robert McDuff, of the Law Office of Robert McDuff in Jackson, Miss.
The three-year consent decree entered today by Judge Daniel P. Jordan III provides for $3,750,000 in monetary relief for the victims. In addition, Koch Foods will take specified actions designed to prevent future discrimination, including implementing new policies and practices designed to prevent discrimination based on race, sex or national origin; providing anti-discrimination training to employees; creating a 24-hour hotline for reporting discrimination complaints in English and Spanish; and posting policies and anti-discrimination 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."
Koch Foods is an international poultry processor that deals in fresh and frozen foods. Its corporate headquarters is in Park Ridge, Ill., and it has locations in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Koch Foods employs approximately 14,000 people.
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The EEOC's Birmingham District covers Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.