Orem furniture maker Mity-Lite Inc. has agreed to pay $157,228 to settle U.S. Department of Labor claims that it engaged in discrimination by hiring too many workers who were from the Pacific islands.
Under what the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs calls a "conciliation agreement," Mity-Lite will divide the money among 685 applicants who were not hired by the company.
A maker of plastic tables, chairs, podiums and other furniture often used in business and institutional settings, Mity-Lite also agreed to hire non-Pacific Islanders for the next 18 positions that become available.
Mity-Lite currently employs 250 people and generates revenue of approximately $60 million a year.
Since the company counts the U.S. federal government among its customers, investigators from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs were making sure it was following federal contract hiring guidelines, according to Rich Kulezewski, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor in Denver.
And that was when the government discovered the hiring discrepancies.
Randy Hales, Mity-Lite's chief executive, said the federal investigation into the company's hiring practices covered a period from April 2005 to December 2006, which was well before the current owners purchased the company in July 2007.
"There are always a few surprises when you step in and buy a company, and this was one of them," Hales said. "But rather than engage in a protracted legal battle with the Labor Department, we decided to settle and put it behind us."
Hales estimated that only a dozen or so employees with Pacific Islander heritage currently work at Mity-Lite.
"What I believed happened was that there were a number of employees [from the Pacific islands] working on the company's production team, and they recommended their friends and family members interview when there were openings -- and some were hired."
The federal government, however, determined that was a problem since the number of new hires with Pacific Islander heritage was higher as a percentage than their presence in surrounding communities.
"The Labor Department is committed to ensuring that all Americans are hired, promoted and compensated fairly, without respect to their race, gender, ethnicity, disability, religion or veteran status," Melissa L. Speer, acting regional director for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said in a statement announcing the settlement.
Speer added, "This settlement should put all federal contractors on notice that the department is serious about eliminating systemic discrimination."