By AP Economics Writer
updated 9/27/2006 11:58:54 AM ET 2006-09-27T15:58:54

Tyson Foods Inc. has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle allegations that the company discriminated against women and minorities in hiring, the Labor Department announced Wednesday.

The money will flow to more than 2,500 people affected by the settlement, the department said.

The allegations of hiring discrimination involved six facilities in Arkansas and Oklahoma. The allegations emerged during government compliance evaluations conducted from 2002 through 2004.

Tyson Foods, in a statement, said that company officials had denied the allegations and had stated that there were legitimate reasons for not hiring the applicants. The company said it entered into the settlement to avoid costly and protracted litigation.

Tyson Foods remains "committed to treating all job applicants fairly," said Ken Kimbro, senior vice president of human resources.

The Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs had alleged that Tyson discriminated against 1,354 female applicants who were rejected for entry-level laborer positions at three Tyson chicken processing plants in Arkansas: Van Buren, Clarksville and Berryville.

The department also found that Tyson discriminated against 998 rejected minority applicants for entry-level laborer positions at chicken processing plants in Grannis, Ark., and Broken Bow, Okla. The government also alleged that the company discriminated against 225 rejected minority applicants for long-haul driver positions at Tyson's trucking terminal in Springdale, Ark., which is also the location of the company's headquarters.

In its statement, Tyson Foods said it will make employment offers to some of the people affected by the settlement who are still interested in working for the company.

Tyson Foods, the world's largest meat producer, also has agreed to correct discriminatory practices and to conduct extensive monitoring measures for two years to make sure that all hiring practices fully comply with the law, the department said.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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