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Bass Pro responds to EEOC discrimination suit

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit Sept. 21 against Bass Pro Outdoor World LLC, alleging that the Springfield-based retailer unlawfully has failed to hire black and Hispanic applicants for positions in stores nationwide. Bass Pro has denied the allegations and says it will fight the suit.

The suit - which stemmed from stores in the Houston, Texas, area but branched to cover the entire company - claims that since at least November 2005, black and Hispanic people were "routinely denied" jobs, including cashier, sales associate, team leader, supervisor and manager, according to a news release from the EEOC.

“Excluding qualified individuals from employment because of their race or ethnicity or in retaliation for exercising protected rights are fundamental violations of the laws we enforce,” EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien said in the release. “The EEOC will diligently protect the rights of job applicants to ensure that hiring decisions are based on abilities, not on race or ethnicity.”

Furthermore, the EEOC alleges Bass Pro destroyed or failed to keep records and documents related to applications and internal discrimination complaints and that employees who opposed the practices were punished or, in some cases, fired or forced to resign.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas-Houston Division, cites examples where store managers used ethnic slurs as explanation for discarding employment applications.

The lawsuit is available for viewing online at the Houston Chronicle.

In a Sept. 21 statement released by Bass Pro, company officials deny the allegations in the suit and express disappointment in the EEOC's decision to take action.

“The EEOC’s allegations are contrary to our profound respect for and commitment to our team of experienced and knowledgeable associates, and we are determined to prove them wrong,” said Mike Rowland, Bass Pro vice president of human resources, in the statement.

The statement claims Bass Pro cooperated with the EEOC during its investigation, providing more than 250,000 pages of documents, which the company says it keeps as required by law.

“Despite our cooperation, the EEOC made unrealistic demands during conciliation. The EEOC cannot or will not tell us the basis for the analysis they claim to have conducted,” Rowland said in the statement. “Fundamental fairness and good faith should require that the EEOC reveal the evidence on which its claims are based before filing a lawsuit that will be long, expensive and disruptive.”

The lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against Bass Pro that would prohibit the company from "engaging in race discrimination, national origin discrimination, retaliation, and improper record destruction."[[In-content Ad]]

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