Staffing agency, 3 companies settle sex discrimination claims

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office alleged workers were systematically excluded from being considered for certain positions on the basis of their sex.

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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul

Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Thursday announced settlements with a temporary staffing agency and three clients over sex discrimination in hiring.

AP file

A temporary staffing agency and three companies have agreed to pay $280,000 in civil penalties to resolve allegations of workplace segregation and sex discrimination when hiring.

Illinois Attorney Gen. Kwame Raoul filed consent decrees Thursday reached with Fibre Drum Sales Inc.; DSI Holdings Corp., the parent of Service Master; Amylu Foods LLC; and Alternative Staffing Inc. and Resource Management Group Inc., which operate jointly.

“The companies seeking to hire workers based on sex — not qualifications — barely attempt to hide their discriminatory hiring practices because such discrimination is almost commonplace within the temporary staffing industry,” Raoul said in a news release.

The lawsuits alleged the companies consistently made some positions available exclusively to men or to women rather than selecting workers based on their qualifications or ability to perform the duties.

Raoul’s office said companies often use coded words like “heavies” or “lights” to make veiled requests about the sex of workers to staffing agencies.

Nathaniel J. Reinsma, chief risk officer of DSI Holdings, said the company “disputes any wrongdoing ... [and] agreed to the entry of this consent decree for the sole purpose of bringing this matter to an efficient resolution.”

Amylu Foods issued a statement: “Although Amylu Foods denies the allegations in the attorney general’s complaint and denies any wrongdoing, it will comply with the terms of the consent decree submitted to the court today.”

The other companies and their lawyers had no comment or did not return calls.

“If client companies were to hire people themselves, they would be much more careful about bringing on people into their company based on race or gender, but they use a staffing agency to do it to create.. like a shield,” said Tim Bell, executive director of Chicago Workers’ Collaborative and Warehouse Workers for Justice.

The settlements announced Thursday came after a February report by the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative about hiring discrimination based on race in the Chicago-area temp staff industry.

“Gender-based lawsuits are pretty well established in the staffing industry, however they are very difficult to prove because of the lack of transparency with no record keeping around those assignments. And the burden of proof to win that sort of case is pretty high,” said Bell.

The consent decrees require the companies to train employees on sex-based discrimination, create a hotline for complaints, improve record-keeping methods, and implement a discrimination and equal employment opportunity policy.

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