Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Tyson Foods Denies Discrimination

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Top U.S. meat processor Tyson Foods Inc. (NYSE:TSN - news) has denied claims of racial discrimination after being sued over two black employees who complained about the posting of a "Whites Only" sign on a bathroom at a poultry plant in Ashland, Alabama. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Tyson on Thursday, saying two black employees were disciplined after complaining about the sign."We're surprised and disappointed by this legal action and firmly believe the charges are without merit," the company said in a statement posted on Friday on its Web site.In a press release on Thursday, the EEOC said the two black employees were subjected to disciplinary action by Tyson management, including suspensions, after they complained about the segregated bathroom.The EEOC said it filed suit only after attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.The suit alleges that Tyson discriminated against Henry Adams, Leon Walker and other black employees by establishing and maintaining a locked bathroom, which on occasion had signs posted on it stating "Out of Order" and "Whites Only."Tyson said it had been cooperating with the federal agency in its investigation and said the company was "shocked" by the agency's decision to file a lawsuit."Our company has zero tolerance for discrimination in the workplace," Tyson said, adding that the presence of such a sign would be a violation of corporate policy.Tyson said the Ashland plant employs about 300 people."A company's commitment to equal opportunity is measured by more than the existence of written policies and diversity training," said Charles Guerrier, regional attorney for the agency's district office in Birmingham, Alabama, in the statement.

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