Favoring one minority over another will still get you sued for discrimination

A Texas company will pay over $1 million to learn a lesson in the dynamics of hiring discrimination: You can’t avoid a bias lawsuit from one minority group by favoring another.  

Lawler Foods, Inc. and Lawler Foods, Ltd.  will pay $1,042,000 as part of the settlement of a class race and national origin discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC claimed that Lawler, a baked goods company, discriminated against three applicants and a class of African-American and non-Hispanic applicants by failing to hire them into entry-level jobs at Lawler’s Humble, TX-area facility because of their race.

In its lawsuit, EEOC alleged that Lawler had violated Title VII by intentionally failing to hire black and other non-Hispanic applicants for jobs — and by using hiring practices, including word-of-mouth recruiting and advertising a Spanish-language preference that had an adverse disparate impact on black and other non-Hispanic applicants.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit in December, 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

In addition to the monetary claims fund, the four-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires Lawler to:

  • seek to recruit and hire black and other non-Hispanic job applicants for its production jobs;
  • conduct an extensive self-assessment of its hiring to ensure non-discrimination and compliance with the terms of the consent decree;
  • conduct employee training to further its non-discrimination commitment; and
  • designate an internal leader to prioritize compliance with the requirements of the consent decree.

The case is the latest example of the EEOC following a priority identified in its Strategic Enforcement Plan: eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, particularly class-based intentional recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against disabilities. The case was handled by EEOC’s Houston District Office, which oversees Southeast Texas, and the New Orleans Field Office, which covers the State of Louisiana.

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