SPRINGDALE, Ark. -- Tyson Foods, Inc. has reached a settlement agreement with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs over employment practices involving five locations in Arkansas and one in Oklahoma, the company reported today.

While Tyson denies the claim of discrimination, the company said that in an effort to avoid costly and protracted litigation, it has agreed to pay $1.5 million to approximately 2,500 women and minorities who were not hired during the period involved and to make employment offers to some of those individuals who are still interested in working for the company.

The OFCCP conducted compliance evaluations of Tyson hiring activity from 2002 to 2004 at poultry plants in Grannis, Clarksville, Berryville and Van Buren, Ark., and Broken Bow, Okla., as well as a Springdale, Ark., trucking operation. Based on statistical analyses, the federal agency subsequently alleged the company discriminated against certain female and minority job applicants for entry level production jobs and some trucking positions.

Tyson officials denied the claim, stating there were legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for not hiring the applicants. However, the company acknowledged that its defense of this position was hampered by the passage of time since the reviews began and incomplete documentation of its selection processes at these locations.

Tyson Foods has since implemented new procedures to ensure the company retains all relevant documentation of its selection processes and is also conducting more frequent audits of its employment practices.

"We have a history of working cooperatively with the OFCCP and remain committed to treating all job applicants fairly," said Ken Kimbro, senior vice president of Human Resources for Tyson Foods. "Tyson has a very diverse workforce and strict policies prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. We also communicate our position against discrimination through our Core Values and Team Member Bill of Rights."

During the time period covered by the OFCCP reviews, Tyson said its representation of minorities at the named processing plants averaged 59 percent while the number of females was 49 percent.

It is Tyson Foods' policy to provide a work environment free of unlawful harassment and discrimination. This position is also reinforced by the company's Code of Conduct, which all Team Members are required to follow.

Tyson supports diversity and inclusion in the workplace, through the company's Office of Diversity Business Practices and its Executive Diversity Business Council, led by Chairman John Tyson. Last year the Council initiated the creation of a new program designed to identify and develop promising workers for upward movement within the company. This effort includes specific attention to the development and advancement of women and minorities.

The OFCCP is part of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration. The agency is responsible for ensuring that employers doing business with the federal government comply with the laws and regulations requiring nondiscrimination and affirmative action.

Tyson Foods Inc., founded in 1935 with headquarters in Springdale, Ark., is the world's largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork, the second-largest food company in the Fortune 500 and a member of the S&P 500.

SOURCE: Information from Tyson Foods Inc. news release.