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BP pays to settle gender discrimination claims

2nd July 2012   ·   0 Comments

BP Exploration and Production, Inc. and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Thursday, June 28, that the oil giant has agreed to pay $5.4 million to settle claims of gender discrimination along the Gulf Coast.

The EEOC and BP made the announcement of a voluntary resolution of an EEOC investigation relating to the hiring of women by contractors providing temporary labor in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010.

The EEOC’s investigation, which was based on concerns raised by several women in Louisiana and Alabama that certain contractors participating in the oil spill response did not consider them for the cleanup effort because of their gender, has not resulted in a determination that BP violated any anti-discrimination laws.

According to a press release from the EEOC’s Houston district office, “the resolution was memorialized in a confidential conciliation agreement, avoids protracted litigation and covers a class of female applicants in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.”

While BP denies any allegations of wrongdoing, it has agreed to partner with the EEOC to ensure “that contractors used during the emergent situations in the future are as committed to equal employment opportunity as BP.”

Under the agreement between BP and the EEOC, BP and its contractors will pay up to $5.4 million to a yet-to-be determined class of women in the Gulf region who applied for jobs during the response with oil spill response contractors. Applicants seeking compensation may be required to submit information to support their claims. Undistributed money from the settlement fund will be donated to a Gulf-area charity that benefits women in the workplace.

The agreement also includes contractual safeguards requiring contractors to abide by EEO laws, training for BP administrators who engage contractors, and a designated BP employee who will monitor terms of the agreement with the EEOC. BP also plans to partner with others in the industry to share lessons learned during the spill in order to further emphasize the importance of equal opportunity in hiring.

Keith T. Hill, director of EEOC’s New Orleans field office which enforces anti-discrimination laws in Louisiana, stated that “preventative action” is being taken to ensure compliance with civil rights laws “even in an emergency.” Hill also praised BP for their compliance with the EEOC’s investigation and agreeing to hold its contractors to a commitment of anti-discrimination.

“We applaud BP’s willingness to aggressively combat sex discrimination in the workplace by sharing its experiences and best practices with peers,” Hill said, “requiring its contractors to comply with federal employment laws, and making a settlement fund available for qualified women who sought employment with BP’s contractors as part of the 2010 spill clean-up effort.”

Mike Utsler, President, BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization echoed the EEOC’s sentiment: “BP has been and continues to be committed to being an industry leader when it comes to EEO issues.”

Utsler insists that BP will not tolerate discriminatory practices from its contractors.

“BP looks forward to working with the EEOC to achieve our mutual goal of non-discriminatory hiring, even in the most extreme and time-sensitive situations,” Utsler said. “BP will not tolerate conduct by any contractor doing work for BP that does not comport with BP’s core value of equality in the workplace.”

This article was originally published in the July 2, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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