March 23rd, 2012

When Minnesota workers apply for a job, they expect that the employer’s decision will be based on their objective aptitude for the position. Yet some employers still impermissibly hire employees according to their race, national origin or sex. This week, FedEx agreed to settle with the U.S. Department of Labor over allegations that the company engaged in employment discrimination.

The allegations of discrimination were far reaching. According to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, over 21,000 applicants across 15 states were affected by FedEx’s behavior. The office caught the discriminatory practices because it routinely examines how contractors who work for the government–of which FedEx is one–choose to hire employees.

Because the volume of contractors is so large, the office runs companies’ employment decisions through a computer, which can quickly decipher whether a company appears to disfavor certain protected classes of applicants. The data from one FedEx location illustrated the wider problem. At that location, white applicants were significantly more likely to earn a job than minorities and men were significantly more likely to be hired than women.

FedEx argued that the allegations of discrimination were based solely on the data. The director of the contract compliance office disputed that assertion, saying that the office had obtained additional information from FedEx itself and those who had sought jobs there.

The settlement requires FedEx to divide $3 million among those it discriminated against and to hire some of those it initially turned down for employment. In addition, the company must improve and alter how it hires employees in order to comply with the law.

Source: The New York Times, “FedEx Agrees to Pay $3 Million to Settle a Bias Case,” Steven Greenhouse, Mar. 21, 2012.