Food distributor pays $1.85M in gender discrimination settlement


The mission of the U.S. Department of Labor is to "foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States." Photo via

A local food distributor has agreed to pay $1.85 million to female applicants as part of a settlement agreement with the federal government over charges of gender discrimination.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, or OFCCP, said it determined Grand Rapids-based Gordon Food Service systematically discriminated against 926 qualified women seeking entry-level warehouse laborer jobs.

Gordon Food Service is a federal food service contractor.

The Labor department said an OFCCP investigation of Gordon Food Service found the company systematically eliminated qualified women from the hiring process through various discriminatory means, including the unlawful use of a strength test.

The women had applied for laborer positions at four warehouses in Grand Rapids and Brighton, as well as Kenosha, Wisconsin and Shepherdsville, Kentucky.

Investigators determined the company’s discriminatory hiring practices resulted in the hiring of six women, while Gordon hired nearly 300 men throughout the investigation period.

Though it has not admitted liability, Gordon Food Service has entered into three conciliation agreements to resolve the discrimination findings and agreed to pay a total of $1.85 million to female applicants, hire 37 female applicants and stop using the strength test that the OFCCP found to be discriminatory.

Gordon provided the following statement on the agreements:

“Gordon Food Service is committed to treating all job applicants fairly and equally. We have taken many steps to adhere to our recruiting processes, including centralizing our recruiting function and evaluating the use of physical screening tests to ensure a fair and objective process that eliminates the presumption of bias.

“We value our diverse workforce, knowing that it reflects the increasing diversity of our customers, suppliers and consumers. As an employer of choice in the communities where we operate, we recognize the importance of providing a workplace free from unlawful discrimination.”

Gordon Food Service provides products to restaurants, schools, universities and hospitals, as well as the U.S. departments of Defense and Agriculture and the Federal Prison System.

Since 2010, Gordon has won nearly $4.5 million in federal contracts to provide perishable and non-perishable foods.

“Too often, we find tests like the one used in this case that exclude workers from jobs that they can, in fact, perform,” said Patricia Shiu, director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “In this case, women were denied good-paying jobs. We are making sure that these women are compensated and that some are able to get the work they sought when positions become available.”

In 2007, Gordon Food Service settled charges of sex discrimination in hiring for similar entry-level labor jobs at its Grand Rapids and Brighton warehouses. In that case, the company provided $450,000 in back pay and interest to the affected women.

Gordon Food Service is one of North America’s largest food distribution companies, with more than 170 U.S. locations.

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