Recent OFCCP and EEOC Enforcement Actions Suggest an Increased Focus on Alleged Discriminatory Hiring Practices

December 2, 2011

Recent complaints filed by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs ("OFCCP") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") against employers suggest that those federal agencies are aggressively pursuing allegations of discriminatory hiring practices.

On November 29, the OFCCP filed an administrative complaint against Cargill Meat Solutions, a federal contractor, alleging that the company violated Executive Order 11246, by favoring Asian and Pacific Islander applicants over applicants of other races and by favoring male applicants over female applicants.  In the complaint, the OFCCP alleges that over 4,000 qualified applicants were unlawfully rejected based only on their race or sex.  Significantly, the OFCCP seeks cancellation of the company's government contracts worth more than $550 million.

In the last several months, the EEOC has also filed two high-profile lawsuits against employers for alleged discriminatory hiring practices.  In September, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Bass Pro Shops in the U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, alleging that the company engaged in a pattern or practice of failing to hire African-American and Hispanic applicants.  In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that managers made overt racist comments acknowledging the company's discriminatory hiring practices, and stated that African-American applicants did not fit their corporate profile.

In October, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Texas Roadhouse in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, alleging that the company systematically failed to hire individuals over 40 years of age for "front of the house" positions.  In the lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that only 1.9% of the "front of the house" employees are over 40 years of age (which the EEOC believes is a statistically significant disparity when compared to the general population, industry statistics, and the applicant pool) and that the company instructed managers to hire younger employees by emphasizing youth in its hiring training.

At this point, these enforcement actions by the OFCCP and EEOC have not resulted in any final determinations or judgments.  Nevertheless, these enforcement actions serve as a useful reminder for employers of all sizes to continually monitor their hiring practices and periodically train managers who have hiring responsibilities to ensure compliance with federal, state, and local laws.