The Hillshire Brands unit of Tyson Foods agreed to settle with 74 African-American employees who formerly worked in its Sara Lee baking facility in Paris, Texas. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the settlement Tuesday (Dec. 22).
The former workers claimed they were subjected to a racially hostile work environment which included racist graffiti on the walls of bathrooms and locker room. The former bakery employees also alleged that during work hours they were berated with racial slurs by supervisors and other white co-workers, and complaints by the plant workers went unaddressed by management prior to the factories closure in 2011.
The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in July, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“EEOC determined racial slurs and graffiti continued at the facility in Paris for years, until the doors finally closed in November 2011, said Meaghan Shepard, trial attorney for the Dallas District of EEOC.
She said the two-year consent decree that settles the case requires Hillshire Brands implement various preventative approaches regarding discrimination and harassment against any employee. Hillshire Brands, now owned by Tyson Foods, also agreed to engage in remedial measures such as anti-discrimination training and implementation of procedures to prevent and promptly address graffiti issues.
“We are pleased with the approach taken by the employer to acknowledge the hostile environment that once existed and for taking positive steps toward ensuring a healthy workplace in the future,” said Belinda McCallister, acting director of EEOC’s Dallas
Tyson acquired Hillshire Brands in 2014 and said it doesn’t agree with the allegation in this case in part because the suit was filed three years after the plant closed. However, the company reiterated that it opposes any unlawful discrimination in the workplace.
“We’re committed to treating our team members with dignity and respect and have a policy against harassment and discrimination. We also require annual training and offer a toll-free help line for our team members to report any concerns they have without fear of retaliation,” the company said in a statement.