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Eagan-based Villaume Industries pays $90K fine in gender discrimination case

After the Minnesota Department of Human Rights found the company refused to hire women, Villaume committed to reforms
The St. Paul office for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights

The St. Paul office for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights

After the Minnesota Department of Human Rights launched an investigation into the extent of gender discrimination at Eagan-based Villaume Industries, the company has agreed to a settlement.  

The MDH announced Monday that it opened an investigation into Villaume Industries in 2019 after "learning" it refused to hire women during a separate investigation into an employment agency. 

The wood products manufacturing company has denied violating the Minnesota Human Rights Act, but its settlement closes the investigation and forces the company to pay a $90,000 fine and commit to a series of reforms, including: 

  • Amend recruitment materials to "explicitly state the company welcomes and values women in the workplace" 
  • Recruit and hire women; report hiring data to the DHR every 90 days 
  • Provide employee training on recognizing bias, cultural humility and what makes a "welcoming workplace"
  • Issue a donation to an organization that supports the advancement of women in the workplace.

A company settling with MDHR amid an investigation is one way these cases end. In other cases, the department may progress the investigation to the point of finding probable cause, at which point the agency may reach a settlement with the company, a spokesperson for MDHR said. 

If MDH finds probable cause but doesn't reach a settlement, it may sue a company - as was the case in 2019, when the agency sued CSL Plasma for violating the state's Human Rights Acts by not allowing a transgender woman to donate plasma.

Of the complaints MDH investigates, employment-related issues are the most common. Within those employment issues, sex-based discrimination is among the most common, the MDH spokesperson said. 

“Refusing to hire women is blatant gender discrimination. It’s akin to posting a sign that says: women need not apply here,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero in a press release. “This settlement agreement helps bring attention to how women continue to face both explicit and implicit discrimination in the workplace. As the state’s civil rights enforcement agency, we are committed to ensuring every woman can live with dignity and joy, free from discrimination.” 

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