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Sherwood Food Distributors to Pay $3.6 Million And Offer 150 Jobs To Settle EEOC Class Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

Food Distribution Company Excluded Women from Entry-Level Warehouse Jobs, Federal Agency Charged

CLEVELAND - Sherwood Food Distributors, LLC, one of the largest independent distributors in the U.S. meat and food industry, will pay $3.6 million and provide other relief to settle a class sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC alleged that as far back as 2009, Sherwood discriminated against a class of female applicants at its warehouses in Cleveland, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan by refusing to hire them for entry-level positions because of gender. Entry-level warehouse workers, also known as selectors or pickers, fulfill customer orders by collecting products from the warehouse storage systems, as described in the consent decree resolving the agency's lawsuit. According to the company's website, Sherwood operates distribution centers where products are stored in refrigerated warehouses. The agency also charged that Sherwood failed to make and preserve records related to the company's alleged discriminatory hiring practices.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. Sherwood Food Distributors, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-02386) on Sept. 27, 2016, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, in Cleveland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The suit was resolved by a five-year consent decree entered by Judge Donald C. Nugent on Oct. 16, 2018. Under the terms of the decree, Sherwood will pay $3.6 million to a class of females identified by the EEOC, and the company must offer jobs to at least 150 women identified by the agency during the claims process. The consent decree establishes hiring goals designed to increase the percentage of females hired for entry-level warehouse positions and maintain a higher representation of females in those positions over a period of years.

The decree also requires Sherwood to create and produce to the EEOC electronic data such as applicant flow logs, and to disclose the number of female and male applicants who seek entry-level warehouse positions, the number of females and males hired for such positions, and the company's progress in meeting hiring goals. The EEOC will monitor Sherwood's hiring practices and the company's compliance with the decree for five years.

"We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Sherwood that provides relief to a class of female applicants who were deprived of employment opportunities at the company's Cleveland and Detroit warehouses," said Debra Lawrence, regional attorney for EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "Federal law prohibits the exclusion of women from employment opportunities because of sex. The EEOC continues to pursue class-wide litigation to wipe out discriminatory barriers that women face in the workplace - especially in the hiring process. This consent decree not only provides relief to women who have already been passed over for entry-level warehouse positions, but it also ensures a more diverse workforce in the future by requiring Sherwood to offer jobs to at least 150 women and by establishing hiring goals."

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

The Philadelphia District Office of EEOC oversees Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the Philadelphia District Office of EEOC also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.  Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.