MORTON, Miss. (WLBT) - Koch Foods (no relation to Charles and David Koch, the majority shareholders of Koch Industries), one of the largest poultry suppliers in the world, settled a 2011 class employment discrimination lawsuit and agreed to pay $3,750,000 and furnish other relief to Hispanic workers, officials announced August 1, 2018.
The EEOC filed the suit on June 29, 2011 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC charged the company with sexual harassment, national origin, and race discrimination as well as retaliation against a class of Hispanic workers at Koch’s Morton, Miss., chicken processing plant.
This same processing plant was one of the subjects of the nation’s largest single-state worksite immigration raids. Nearly 700 workers were detained at seven sites by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.
271 of those detained in immigration raids around the state have been sent home according to a spokesman from Homeland Security Investigation.
In the suit, workers and EEOC alleged Koch subjected Hispanic employees and female employees to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment based on their race/national origin and sex, and then retaliated against those who complained.
EEOC alleges that supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities.
The three-year consent decree entered by Judge Daniel P. Jordan III provides for $3,750,000 in monetary relief for the victims.
In addition, Koch Foods will take specified actions designed to prevent future discrimination, including implementing new policies and practices designed to prevent discrimination based on race, sex or national origin; providing anti-discrimination training to employees; creating a 24-hour hotline for reporting discrimination complaints in English and Spanish; and posting policies and anti-discrimination notices in its workplace in English and Spanish.
"We commend Koch Foods for its commitment to settle this case, which contained serious allegations of harassment," said EEOC Birmingham Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker. "The significant monetary award, the corrective measures in this decree, including EEOC monitoring, should prevent this kind of alleged misconduct in the future."
“We take allegations of abuse seriously," said Bradley Anderson, the EEOC’s district director for the Birmingham District Office in a in a press release. "No one working in America deserves to be harassed in the workplace, and, as evidenced in this lawsuit, the EEOC will engage in vigorous law enforcement efforts to protect workers.”
Koch Foods is an international poultry processor that deals in fresh and frozen foods. Its corporate headquarters is in Park Ridge, Ill., and it has locations in Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Koch Foods employs approximately 14,000 people.