One of the nation’s largest private development groups is shelling out a hefty amount of cash after it was discovered that the company discriminated against over 100 Black job applicants in 2011.
Chemonics International, a private aid-delivery group that partners with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to support international economic development, agreed to pay a whopping $482,243 to job applicants who were subjected to racial discrimination in the company’s hiring process, the Guardian reported.
A Department of Labor investigation into Chemonics’ hiring practices found that the group discriminated against applicants based on race while trying to fill entry-level positions. According to the Guardian, none of the 124 Black Americans who applied for the jobs were hired.
The $482K settlement is expected to cover back pay with benefits and interest to all of the affected applicants. Chemonics also has agreed to hire eight of the applicants turned down for employment at the company.
Officials at the private development corporation linked the discrimination to an outdated, manual employment application system but promised to replace it with one that allows the firm to monitor personnel activity and diversity data, Chemonics director of communications Jane Gotiangco said. She asserted that the company is taking a new approach to ensuring diversity.
“The agency does believe this settlement will send a message to other contractors, including those working in the international development arena, that employment discrimination is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Joanna Hawkins, a representative for the Department of Labor.
This isn’t the first time Chemonics has been in hot water for discrimination, however. In 2010, the corporation was awarded over $196 million to rebuild Haiti after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake ravaged the tiny island nation. Months later, auditors found that the company had hired only one-third the number of Haitians it was supposed to, according to the Guardian.
“Winning federal contracts, paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars, is a privilege, not a right,” Patricia A Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), wrote in a statement. “With that privilege comes the obligation to practice equal employment opportunity toward all demographic groups of workers in this country.”
Even after Chemonics failed to employ Haitian workers, USAid once again awarded the company with $53 million to start 141 new work projects in Haiti. According to a 2012 article from PRI.org, an internal audit later found that some of the projects were lagging behind schedule and/or had failed completely because the company dropped the ball in engaging local communities in the work.
The audit also revealed that Chemonics:
- Failed to help Haiti’s national mapping agency replace geographical data lost during the deadly earthquake.
- Was tasked with providing school supplies like chairs, desks and backpacks to two Haitian schools, but only provided enough for children who actually returned to school following the quake.
- Hired outside contractors to complete “urban beautification” projects on the island, rather than employing Haitian workers. The projects ultimately failed.
“As a result, residents saw jobs in their neighborhood being done by outsiders, and without an understanding of the activities, they did not see how anyone local benefited,” the audit stated.
In addition to the aforementioned mishaps, Chemonics also failed to maintain required employment records and regularly conduct internal audits, a DOL press release stated. A representative said the company has since taken steps to correct the issues uncovered by the DOL.