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WNY dairy cooperative to pay $1.35 million to settle sex discrimination lawsuit

A Buffalo dairy cooperative has agreed to pay $1.35 million dollars to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit. Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. was accused of discriminating against female job applicants for production jobs at three facilities in Buffalo and Rochester, going back more than 10 years.

According to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company refused to hire, and often didn't even interview, many qualified women. It also failed to retain applications and hiring-related documents in violation of federal record-keeping requirements.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, accused the company of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. The EEOC says the settlement followed attempts to reach a pre-litigation settlement through a voluntary conciliation process.

“When we began our lawsuit, some of Upstate Niagara’s facilities had no women working in production-related jobs,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office, in a statement. “Now, under this consent decree, we expect these jobs will be available to qualified women.”

Under the resolution, Upstate Niagara will pay the $1.35 million in back pay and damages to the female applicants and adopt a recruitment plan with goals to hire more women. It must also retain all applications, train all of its employees at the three facilities on their rights and obligations under federal anti-discrimination law, and adopt a new anti-discrimination procedure.

“We are pleased Upstate Niagara is taking steps to ensure they conduct hiring for production positions in a non-discriminatory manner,” said Judy Keenan, acting district director of the EEOC’s New York District Office, in a statement.

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