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Cargill pays $2.2 million to settle discrimination charge, denies wrongdoing

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Cargill is paying $2.2 million to settle an allegation of hiring discrimination brought by the federal government.

The Wall Street Journal reports the U.S. Department of Labor charged that three Cargill-owned meat processing plants rejected job applicants based on their race or gender. Cargill will reimburse nearly 3,000 workers for lost wages and offer new jobs to about 350, the Journal reports.

The Star Tribune says the rejected applicants had applied for work at a turkey plant in Arkansas, a beef operation in Colorado, and a pork processor in Illinois.

It was the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs that leveled the discrimination charge, which involves hiring decisions made between 2005 and 2009. In announcing the settlement, the Department says the Office found during a scheduled review that Cargill's hiring processes at the plants discriminated based on race, sex, or ethnicity.

The Wall Street Journal story says the 2011 complaint alleged that managers favored Asian-American and Pacific Islander applicants over those who were black, white, or Hispanic.

In its own announcement of the settlement, Cargill calls the allegations unfounded and without merit. The Wayzata-based company says it chose to avoid the cost and uncertainty of lengthy litigation by agreeing to the settlement. Cargill also criticized the methods of the compliance office, saying it "...uses a mathematical model to allege violations in the absence of evidence."

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