EVANSVILLE, Ind. – A federal contractor that manufactures portable meals for the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies discriminated systematically against qualified men seeking entry-level production jobs, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs alleges in a lawsuit filed today.

An OFCCP investigation of AmeriQual Group, LLC found the Evansville-based company segregated its production line workforce. The company based work assignments on gender stereotypes: putting women in “light duty” jobs and having men do more labor intensive work. Through interviews with company officials and employees, OFCCP investigators learned women were selected for table inspector jobs, where a majority of the hiring occurred, while men were relegated generally to loader and utility positions, where less hiring took place.

In its suit, the department seeks back wages and job offers for 27 men who applied for jobs at AmeriQual Group. The company produces, packages, assembles and distributes shelf-stable food products to the U.S. Department of Defense, other federal agencies and major food companies. Its products include “Meals Ready to Eat,” commonly known as MREs, used by the armed services. Since January 2010, the company has held federal government contracts worth more than $700 million.

“Qualifications for a job are tied to skills and experience, not gender. Stereotypical notions of what jobs are appropriate for women are outdated, and perpetuate discrimination,” said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu. “We expect that employers funded by taxpayer dollars to provide meals to our Armed Forces will exemplify the same spirit of equal employment opportunity and diversity that exists in our military.”

OFCCP found the company’s discriminatory practices violated Executive Order 11246 and affected 237 male applicants. Although there was a significantly larger male applicant pool, AmeriQual disproportionately selected women over men.

The investigation also found that AmeriQual attempted to create after-the-fact justifications for failing to hire male applicants by making notations on “sticky notes” and other documents and then adding them to files. Those notations did not appear on the original documents that the company provided at the beginning of the investigation. AmeriQual also failed to provide specific hiring records during the course of the investigation.

In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP enforces Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. As amended, these three laws make it illegal for contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government to discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. For more information, please call OFCCP’s toll-free helpline at 800-397-6251 or visit http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.