News Roundup: Week of Aug. 17 – Aug. 23

Gerber Pays Nearly $1 Million Fine for Discrimination

Gerber Products Co. has agreed to pay a nearly $1 million fine to job applicants who were discriminated against, the Department of Labor announced this week. The fine comes after a 2005 investigation found the baby food company rejected more than 1,900 minority and female applicants for entry-level positions, and used pre-employment tests that discriminated against minorities.

“This settlement of $900,000 on behalf of more than 1,912 minorities and females should put all federal contractors on notice that the Labor Department is serious about eliminating systemic discrimination,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis on Tuesday.

The investigation stems from a scheduled compliance evaluation of Gerber’s Fort Smith, Arkansas, factory by the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Investigators found the hiring disparity was in part caused by inconsistent selection procedures for entry-level positions. Additionally, the OFCCP found that Gerber used pre-employment tests that negatively impacted minority applicants and determined that there was insufficient evidence of validity to support Gerber’s use of the test. Gerber has discontinued its use of the test in the hiring process for entry-level positions, the Labor Department said.

The fine will cover back pay and interest. As part of the agreement, Gerber’s Fort Smith factory will provide 61 entry-level positions to those who were denied jobs due to discriminatory practices. The company, which is a unit of Nestle NA, has also agreed to undergo self-monitoring measures to ensure all hiring practices fully comply the law and immediately correct any discriminatory practice.

— Renita Burns