Feds allege discrimination at Lumberton warehouse

Posted December 2, 2010 4:39 p.m. EST
Updated December 2, 2010 4:46 p.m. EST

— The U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday filed an administrative complaint against a wholesale food distributor, alleging that it discriminated against dozens of women in its Lumberton facility.

More than 80 qualified women applied for order selector positions at the Nash Finch Co. warehouse but were bypassed for the jobs, according to the complaint by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.

Minneapolis-based Nash Finch contracts with the federal government to provide goods and services to more than 200 military bases in the U.S. and overseas.

“It is unacceptable that a company which profits from lucrative federal contracts would repeatedly violate the law in this manner,” Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said in a statement. “Nash Finch has demonstrated an unfortunate pattern and practice of hiring discrimination, and the American taxpayers should not have to bankroll this company’s bad behavior anymore.”

The government has over the past decade settled discrimination cases with Nash Finch facilities in Norfolk, Va., St. Cloud, Minn., and Omaha, Neb. In those cases, violations were uncovered with regard to record-keeping and hiring discrimination.

Order selectors at the Lumberton facility pull warehouse stock to fill customer orders. Data collected from Nash Finch during a six-month period showed the company hired about 6 percent of qualified female applicants versus 26 percent of male applicants, according to the complaint. In 2007 and 2008, there were no women in any order selector positions at the Lumberton distribution center.

The Labor Department seeks remedies for the rejected applicants, including lost wages, benefits and interest, as well as job offers and retroactive seniority for at least 11 of the original applicants.

The government also has petitioned an administrative law judge to cancel all of Nash Finch’s federal contracts and bar the company from entering into any future contracts until the violations are resolved and the company corrects its discriminatory employment practices.