After eight years of slow moving legal wrangling and litigation Koch Food of Mississippi has agreed to settle a law suit that alleged numerous acts of discrimination against female and Hispanic employees at the Morton plant.
The original lawsuit was filed in June 2011 by workers employed at the Morton plant and after review the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a second lawsuit in 2016 on behalf of the Scott County workers. After seven years of countless motions, hearings and litigation the two sides have reached an agreement and settlement which will require Koch to pay $3.75 million in addition to providing concessions to workers at the Morton plant and throughout the company.
In a press release dated August 1, the EEOC alleged that Koch Foods of Mississippi, LLC a poultry processor whose head quarters are in Illinois and operates three processing plants in Mississippi, violated federal law by paying a female plant coordinator less than a male plant coordinator when both were doing equal work.
The EEOC further alleged that Koch Foods has continuously paid the female plant coordinator at a lower rate while giving her a greater workload than it gave her male cohort. The female plant coordinator requested that she be paid on an equal basis with her male counterpart, but her numerous requests for equal pay were all denied.
“The enforcement of federal laws prohibiting pay discrimination is a national priority of the Commission,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for EEOC’s Birmingham District. “Sadly, more than 50 years after Congress acted to make workplace discrimination against women illegal, including unequal pay, some employers continue these practices. EEOC will continue to work to achieve the common-sense principle embodied in the law that women should receive equal pay for equal work.”
C. Emanuel Smith, regional attorney for EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, said, “This lawsuit sends the clear message that EEOC will enforce the rights of workers to be fairly compensated for their work without regard to gender. Compensation cannot be dictated by gender when employees perform work of equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.”
The Clarion Ledger in Jackson reports that the EEOC lawsuit also alleges that Koch Foods subjected Hispanic employees and female employees to a hostile work environment and unequal treatment based on their race/national origin and gender and then retaliated with hostility against those who made complaints about the treatment they endured.
“Our clients were very brave in making the choice to speak out,” said Caitlin Berberich, an attorney with SMLS who represented some of the workers was quoted in the Jackson paper. “We are pleased that after eight years of litigation, our clients and Koch Foods were able to resolve this matter, including implementation of practices that will hopefully prevent the types of abuses alleged in this case from happening in the future. This was important to our clients from the beginning.”
In a prepared statement Koch Foods said that the allegations were fabricated in a bid to obtain work authorizations through a visa.
The EEOC reports that the final three-year consent decree was adjudicated August 1 by Judge Daniel P. Jordan III, and provides for $3.75 million 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.