California company refused to hire ‘non-Hispanics,’ feds say. It will now pay $2 million

The Marquez Brothers plant in Hanford is one of the sites where the company allegedly discriminated against non-Hispanic job applicants since 2010.
The Marquez Brothers plant in Hanford is one of the sites where the company allegedly discriminated against non-Hispanic job applicants since 2010. Google Maps

Marquez Brothers, a company that manufactures Mexican-style cheese and other food products, has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed more than two years ago over alleged racial discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the settlement Wednesday. The suit stemmed from the experience of two African-American job applicants who alleged they sought job applications at the Marquez Brothers facility in Hanford, but were refused the paperwork.

The federal agency charged that one of the applicants had several years of experience in dairy goods production, but “was not hired despite having been better qualified than those ultimately hired.”

The second man also sought to apply several times for work at Marquez Brothers, but “was repeatedly discouraged from applying and told that Marquez Brothers International was not hiring.”

The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Fresno alleged that over the past decade, Marquez Brothers discriminated against non-Hispanic job applicants, including “refusing to accept [employment] applications from non-Hispanic applicants,” at its California plants in Hanford, Fresno, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego, and at plants in Colorado, Nevada and Texas.

While the two men identified in the lawsuit were black, a subsequent investigation by EEOC reportedly found other instances of discrimination against white, Asian and other races by the company.

No one was available Thursday at the Marquez Brothers corporate offices in San Jose to address questions from The Bee about the lawsuit or the settlement.

Marquez Brothers’ products are marketed under the El Mexicano brand name.

The settlement covers Marquez Brothers plants in California, Colorado, Arkansas, Illinois, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma, Arizona and Utah. In addition to the monetary settlement, the three-year agreement requires Marquez Brothers to take other steps to prevent future discrimination, including hiring an external monitor, developing and implementing hiring goals, increase training and reporting, and maintain a tracking system for discrimination complaints.

EEOC officials said that any applicants who sought warehouse or production work at Marquez Brothers since 2010 and were passed over or discouraged from applying may be eligible for compensation from the settlement. Those people can contact the agency at a toll-free number, 855-725-4456.

Lifelong Valley resident Tim Sheehan has worked in the Valley as a reporter and editor since 1986, and has been at The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently The Bee’s data reporter and covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.