Company penalized for discrimination in hiring

Many residents of the District of Columbia may not be aware of the protections that the federal government provides for those who do business with the government. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces equal opportunity and affirmative action law in support of both those who are already employed and those who are looking for work.

The OFCCP works in tandem with other agencies, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Women's Bureau, the Employment and Training Administration and the Department of Justice.

Recently the OFCCP made headlines when it announced that it had resolved complaints of discrimination that had been made against the Baldor Electric Company. Baldor supplied generators and batteries to federal agencies including the United States Army, garnering $79 million for its work for government units from 1997 to 2010. The OFCCP was engaged in a routine audit in 2007 when it discovered a discrimination issue at Baldor.

A federal rule forbids contractors who receive over $10,000 a year in government contracts from discriminating in its employment practices. Specifically, discrimination based on sex, color, race, religion or national origin is prohibited.

Baldor has a plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas, where it allegedly discriminated in its screening process for job applicants. The OFCCP investigation revealed that Baldor did not evaluate each applicant's qualifications fairly and objectively, but used discriminatory subjective criteria. Because of the discriminatory standards, 795 people who were either Asian-, Hispanic- or African-American, or female, did not receive an interview after they submitted an application for a laborer or production job.

In its defense, Baldor asserted through a spokesperson that it had not received any complaints about its hiring practices, and that OFCCP had based its conclusions on looking at the job application and hiring statistics at Baldor. The company agreed to settle, even though it did not believe it had violated the federal rules against discrimination, to avoid paying more legal costs.

The settlement Baldor agreed to requires the company to offer jobs to 50 people and to pay two million dollars in back wages to the 795 people who were affected by discrimination.

Baldor will remain a contractor working for the government. Its current contracts with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice and General Services Administration amount to over $18 million.

Attorneys who specialize in employment law are an important resource for anyone who suspects discrimination in the workplace. Laws are in place to protect workers and applicants, and an attorney can help assure that they can exercise their rights.