An Illinois-based meat processing company and its temporary staffing agency resolved a lawsuit alleging the companies conspired to discriminate against Black job applicants.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Oct. 14 announced consent decrees resolving his lawsuit involving Mistica Foods and Specialized Staffing; the lawsuit alleged a pattern of discrimination against Black workers and job applicants who sought employment at Mistica through Specialized.

Mistica, a meat processing company with facilities in Addison and Lyons, Illinois, hires workers indirectly through temporary staffing agencies, including Specialized, an Illinois-based temporary staffing agency. The alleged discriminatory conduct resulted in hundreds of Black workers and job applicants being denied gainful employment at Mistica, according to Raoul.

The lawsuit alleged that over the course of at least four years, Mistica has instructed its temporary staffing agencies not to assign Black workers to Mistica and that Specialized Staffing, which supplied the majority of Mistica’s workforce, has complied with these discriminatory requests. According to the lawsuit, Mistica supervisors made negative comments about the work ethic of Black individuals and expressed to Specialized that the company’s preference was not to hire Black individuals. The lawsuit also alleges that when Specialized assigned Black workers to Mistica, the company dismissed them without giving a reason.

“The discriminatory treatment by Mistica resulted in an intimidating and hostile working environment for those African-American laborers assigned to Mistica,” the lawsuit stated. “African-American laborers who complained about discriminatory treatment by Mistica supervisors were asked not to return to Mistica facilities. Thus, the culture at Mistica facilities was such that if African-American laborers raised issues with Mistica supervisors, this marked the end of their work at Mistica and possibly the end of their employment with their respective staffing agency for the foreseeable future.”

Mistica will pay $270,000 in civil penalties under the consent decrees and Specialized will pay $180,000. Both Mistica and Specialized are also required to take steps to increase the number of Black employees assigned to Mistica, including participating in career fairs at predominantly Black communities and advertising job openings on radio stations with predominantly Black listeners.

Both firms are also required to follow model record-keeping practices designed to track the race of workers assigned to Mistica, as well as the applicants that Specialized considers for assignment to Mistica. Mistica has agreed to do business only with staffing agencies that follow those record-keeping practices. Mistica and Specialized are also obligated to follow strict reporting requirements for the duration of the consent decrees that will allow the Attorney General’s office to monitor the companies’ compliance. In addition, employees and supervisors at both companies will be required to undergo bias trainings.

“Using temporary staffing agencies to engage in race-based discrimination unfairly keeps entire communities out of the labor market and denies them the opportunity earn a fair wage,” Raoul said. “I am committed to taking action to stop pervasive discrimination wherever we find it, because Illinois workers should have equal opportunities for employment regardless of race, sex, or other protected grounds — particularly at a time when many residents are unemployed or underemployed as a result of the pandemic.”