The Crusader Newspaper Group

Chicago Meat Authority pays over $1M for alleged discrimination against Blacks but gets $3.3M in PPP loans

chicago meat authority

As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Chicago Meat Authority (CMA) for allegedly not hiring Black applicants while firing a Black employee for complaining about harassment, the South Side company received a $3.3 million Payment Protection Program loan (PPP) that it doesn’t have to pay back.

The EEOC on October 7 announced that it settled a two-year lawsuit against the CMA, a 31-year-old company in the Back of the Yards neighborhood that will pay $1.1 million after it was accused of various acts of discrimination against Blacks at its meatpacking warehouse at 1120 W. 47th Place.

The EEOC’s investigation revealed that “the company favored hiring Hispanic employees over African American employees, although the company is located in a largely Black neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.” The EEOC said the investigation further revealed that Black employees who were hired were subjected to repeated racial slurs and harassment by both co-workers and managers. The EEOC said a Black employee was fired because of his race and “in retaliation for complaining about racial harassment.”

Asked how many Black employees were denied employment and harassed, Victor Chen, director of communications for the EEOC’s Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, said in an email, “We can’t provide specific numbers to preserve confidentiality, but we can generally characterize it in the dozens.”

As part of the $1.1 million settlement, CMA has entered a consent decree that prohibits the company from discriminating in the future. The consent decree also mandates the hiring of rejected applicants who still want to work at CMA, which will implement anti-harassment training and policies.

“Stopping race discrimination in hiring is one of the fundamental objectives the EEOC was created to address more than 50 years ago,” said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour.

“Unfortunately, there is a continuing need for law enforcement work in this area. The consent decree at Chicago Meat Authority makes a very important contribution to that work by providing job opportunities to qualified applicants who were denied them in the past, and require that the company take steps to reform its hiring practices in the future.”

Julianne Bowman, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, said, “We are pleased that we were able to resolve this case with Chicago Meat Authority. The consent decree will ensure that the federal laws against discrimination and harassment are followed, that all future applicants, regardless of their race, will be given the consideration that they deserve, and that racial harassment will not be tolerated.”

Responding to an email from the Crusader, Chicago Meat Authority founder and President Jordan Dorfman said, “Since our founding, CMA has embraced being an equal opportunity employer. This case was the result of complaints by a handful of employees who had been terminated by the company at the beginning of 2013.

“CMA denied all claims but fully co-operated in a thorough investigation conducted by the EEOC that resulted in the EEOC abandoning certain claims. But after more than three years of legal proceedings, the company has made a business decision to settle the case, without any admission of improper practices, rather than continue with a very costly defense.

“Though it may seem that settling this case was somehow an admission of fault, nothing could be further from the truth. This does not mean that as an employer we haven’t learned from this experience or had cause to evaluate what we can do better. We believe that as a company, achieving diversity in our team is a strength. In fact, it is a goal of CMA, and not simply a rote exercise to satisfy a governmental regulation.”

The CMA did not respond to a follow-up email asking how many of its 300 employees are Black and Hispanic.

According to its website, CMA was founded in 1990 with just 12 employees in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. By the end of 1990, CMA was producing 80,000 pounds of beef and pork a week.

Today the CMA campus has two massive facilities totaling 80,000 square feet of production, with the ability to process 3 million pounds of meat a week, shipping to some 55 countries all over the world. CMA has distribution worldwide with a client base that includes Fortune 500 companies, government facilities as well as smaller businesses in hospitality and food.

During the pandemic, the company is offering a signing bonus for new employees.

On its website, the CMA has an EEOC notice that defines discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.

As the EEOC prepared to take the CMA to court with its lawsuit, the company applied and was approved for a PPP loan on April 14, 2020, for $3,334,088, according to the U.S. Department of Treasury. On June 11 of this year, the loan was forgiven, meaning the CMA doesn’t have to pay it back.

PPP loans were implemented by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2020 to help businesses keep employees on their payroll during the coronavirus pandemic.

PPP loans do not have to be repaid if they are used to cover payrolls, keep workers and pay for some overheads.

Last year, a Crusader investigation revealed that Rosebud Restaurants and several Chicago area temporary staffing firms that were sued by the EEOC for allegedly discriminating against Black job applicants received millions of dollars in PPP loans.

Rosebud Restaurants received a PPP loan between $2 million to $5 million on April 6. Two other PPP loan recipients, temporary staffing firms Personnel Staffing Group, LLC, and MVP Workforce, LLC, each received loans between $5 million to $10 million on April 27 and April 9, respectively.

In 2017, Rosebud agreed to pay nearly $2 million after it was sued for alleged widespread racial discrimination practices by the EEOC. The next year, the EEOC sued Rosebud again, accusing the popular Chicago eatery of sexual harassment and retaliation.

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