published on January 16, 2017 - 1:11 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against a Hanford employer for allegedly discriminating against non-Hispanic applicants in hiring.

San Jose-based food company Marquez Brothers International, Inc. is accused of favoring less qualified Hispanic job applicants over all other ethnicites and races at its Hanford cheese factory as well as locations across the U.S.

According to a complaint filed in federal court, the EEOC alleges that Marquez Brothers also discouraged non-Hispanic applicants from applying and asked applicants if they spoke Spanish even though it wasn’t a job requirement.

The lawsuit stems from an applicant named Alfred Davis, a black man who applied for a job at the Hanford cheese plant in 2010 with four year of experience working in dairy product production. Davis was not hired, though four other Hispanic applicants who applied around the same time as Davis were hired, according to court documents.

Other applicants who were non-Hispanic and mixed-Hispanic are also mentioned in the lawsuit, alleging they were not hired because of their ethnicity or race.

A workplace culture of Marquez Brothers rejecting non-Hispanic, non-Spanish job applicants was known in the Hanford community, according to court documents.

According to reports filed by Marquez Brothers with the EEOC, between 2010 and 2013, 95-97 percent of all employees at the Hanford plant were Hispanic. Looking at only the category of unskilled laborers and helpers, that number goes to 98.6-100 percent.

Melissa Barrios, director of EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, said in a statement, “Employers must be aware of their responsibility under the law to provide employment opportunities to everyone, regardless of race.”

The lawsuit seeks an end to the alleged practices, as well as compensation representing back pay as well as pain and suffering and punitive damages for Davis and a “class of similarly situated non-Hispanic individuals,” according to court documents.

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