Marquez Brothers International, a leading maker of Mexican food products that has operations in Hanford and Fresno, is being sued by the federal government for discriminating against non-Hispanic job applicants.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges the company violated federal law by discouraging non-Hispanics from applying for entry-level jobs; asking applicants if they spoke Spanish, even when it was not a requirement; and favoring less qualified Hispanic job applicants.
“EEOC’s core mission is to ensure equal employment opportunity for all. Deterring applicants from applying because of their race flies in the face of federal law,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles district office.
Officials with Marquez Brothers could not be reached for comment Thursday.
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Based in San Jose, the company operates multiple factories throughout the West, including a cheese plant in Hanford and a distribution center in Fresno.
EEOC’s core mission is to ensue equal employment opportunity for all.
Anna Park, EEOC regional attorney
EEOC officials said it was at the Hanford cheese plant where the investigation into the company’s employment practices began. In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Fresno, a male applicant alleges he was denied an entry-level position despite being more qualified than the other job seekers.
The job applicant, who is African American, took his complaint to EEOC in 2010. In the ensuing investigation, the government found evidence of other non-Hispanics being passed over for jobs. Eleven people are listed in the lawsuit as being denied an opportunity for a job.
In some cases, applicants were spoken to in Spanish and asked if they could speak Spanish. When the applicant said no, “his application was tossed under the table,” according to the lawsuit.
Several applicants said it was well known in the Hanford community that Marquez Brothers only hired Hispanics.
Employment records obtained by EEOC investigators show that from 2010 to 2013, nearly 100 percent of Marquez Brothers’ workers in the “laborers and helpers” category at the Hanford plant were Hispanic. Companywide, 96 percent to 98 percent of its employs were Hispanic. In 2013, company records show it employed 778 workers.
The EEOC is seeking back pay, benefits, and compensatory and punitive damages for a class of non-Hispanic applicants.
Melissa Barrios, local director of EEOC’s Fresno office, said this case should serve as a reminder to all employers that discrimination is against the law.
“Employers need to be mindful that they need to provide an equal opportunity for any individual who is applying for a job,” she said.