Nash Finch Accused of Gender Discrimination in NC

The Minneapolis-based company denied accusations that it used gender bias in hiring at one of its distribution centers, saying that it "does not tolerate any form of discrimination" and that it looks forward to "defending our hiring policies and procedures in the administrative tribunal."

The U.S. Department of Labor has accused Nash Finch Company of discriminating against more than 80 women applicants at one of the company's wholesale distribution centers.

The department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) filed an administrative complaint on Monday that accused the company of gender bias in hiring at its Lumberton, North Carolina, facility.

Minneapolis-based Nash Finch is the second-largest publicly traded wholesale food distributor in the United States. The company contracts with the federal government to provide goods and services to more than 200 military bases in the United States and overseas.

Federal law prohibits federal contractors from employment practices that discriminate based on gender. But according to the complaint, data collected from Nash Finch during a six-month period showed that the company hired approximately 26.6 percent of qualified male applicants but only 6.6 percent of qualified female applicants for “order selector” positions at the Lumberton facility. Order selectors pull warehouse stock to fill customer orders. In 2007 and 2008, there were no women in any order selector positions at the Lumberton distribution center, according to the complaint.

In a press release e-mailed to Twin Cities Business on Friday afternoon, Nash Finch said that the administrative complaint did not result from a discrimination complaint made by a past job applicant and that it was instead the outcome of a routine compliance review conducted by the OFCCP.

“We were disappointed to see that OFCCP issued a press release which, in our view, inaccurately />portrays the hiring practices of Nash Finch Company,” company President Alec Covington said in the release. “Nash Finch does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is committed to offering very compelling and rewarding employment opportunities in a safe environment for all individuals.”

“In the Lumberton compliance review, as with other OFCCP reviews, we cooperated with the /> OFCCP in its investigation and tried to resolve the dispute in a reasonable manner to ensure that any /> remedy included only qualified applicants for employment,” Covington continued. “Unfortunately, our efforts to resolve the matter amicably were not successful. We look forward to defending our hiring policies and procedures in the administrative tribunal.”

Over the past decade, the OFCCP has settled discrimination cases with Nash Finch facilities in St. Cloud; Norfolk, Virginia; and Omaha, Nebraska. The office claims to have uncovered “serious violations of the law with regard to recordkeeping and hiring discrimination” and said that it found that “the company's policies and procedures created an uneven playing field for women, minorities, and veterans seeking employment with the company.”

“It is unacceptable that a company which profits from lucrative federal contracts would repeatedly violate the law in this manner,” OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu 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.”

Nash Finch acknowledged the discrimination allegations previously brought by the OFCCP, but it said that those cases never reached a court or administrative tribunal and that Nash Finch admitted no fault in the settlements reached.

The Labor Department's complaint seeks lost wages, benefits, and interest for the women alleged to have been discriminated against-plus job offers and retroactive seniority for at least 11 of the “order selector” female applicants. The OFCCP is also petitioning the Labor Department's administrative law judge to cancel all of Nash Finch's existing federal contracts and prevent the company from entering into any future contracts until the violations are resolved and the company corrects its discriminatory employment practices.