Tyson Settles Discrimination Suit

Tyson will also pay $871,000 collectively to the 13 plaintiffs.
"This settlement is a significant advancement for our clients, Tyson, and the other employees in Tyson’s Ashland plant," says Barbara Arnwine

Tyson Foods, Inc. and a group of current and former workers have reached a settlement in a discrimination lawsuit involving the company’s Ashland, Alabama, poultry plant.

The agreement resolves complaints filed in federal court in August 2005 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and 13 African American workers who alleged there was race discrimination at the plant. Their complaints included claims a maintenance shop restroom was locked and accessible to only a few white workers in July and August of 2003 and that a “whites only” sign was briefly posted on the restroom door.

Tyson officials contend they did not authorize, condone or see the posting of such a sign and noted the company does not tolerate discrimination in the workplace. According to the settlement, Tyson denies violating any laws and has agreed to take additional steps to ensure the prevention of discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the Ashland plant. Tyson will designate a corporate human resources executive to ensure all Ashland Team Members are trained on Tyson’s anti-discrimination policies and procedures and to handle the company’s response to any discrimination or harassment complaints.

In addition, this executive will hold Ashland workers and managers responsible for complying with the company’s anti-discrimination policies and submit reports to the EEOC on the plant’s progress. As part of the settlement, Tyson will also pay $871,000 collectively to the 13 plaintiffs.

“This settlement is a significant advancement for our clients, Tyson, and the other employees in Tyson’s Ashland plant,” says Barbara Arnwine, Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “This resolution of our clients’ claims of racial discrimination will ensure a fair and better work environment for employees of all races.”

“We’re committed to treating all Team Members fairly and this includes providing a workplace free of discrimination and harassment,” said Ken Kimbro, senior vice president of Human Resources for Tyson Foods. “Evidence of our commitment includes a companywide Code of Conduct, Team Member Bill of Rights and set of Core Values, which instruct our people to treat each other with dignity and respect. We also require all of our Team Members to be trained annually on the company’s harassment and discrimination policy. In addition, we support diversity and inclusion in the workplace, through our Office of Diversity Business Practices and Executive Diversity Business Council.”

Since last year, Tyson has retrained all Ashland workers on the company’s policies on discrimination as well as dignity and respect in the workplace. The company has also made changes in the management staff at the plant, including the selection of a new plant manager and maintenance manager. There have been no additional allegations of restricted access to restrooms at Ashland since 2003.

Tyson’s Ashland plant is a chicken processing facility that employs approximately 300 people. The Plaintiffs are represented by a legal team comprised of attorneys from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., Sherman & Sterling, L.L.P. in New York City; Nakamura Quinn & Walls, L.L.P. in Birmingham; and Lightfoot Franklin & White, L.L.C. in Birmingham. The Lawyers’ Committee is a national, nonprofit organization, which specializes in civil rights litigation.


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