Smithfield Foods Denies Diversity Hiring Targets White Males Amid Allegations from Trump-Aligned Law Firm

Smithfield Foods’ global headquarters, situated on the banks of the Pagan River, has recently come under scrutiny by America First Legal (AFL), a law firm established by former Trump administration officials. The firm has called on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate Smithfield Foods, claiming the company’s diversity hiring initiatives discriminate against white males.

Allegations and Response

In letters dated June 13, AFL accused Smithfield of using race, color, and sex as motivating factors in its employment practices. The allegations are rooted in Smithfield’s 2023 sustainability report, which outlines the company’s goals to increase racial and gender diversity in leadership positions and enhance production facility spending with minority-owned businesses.

Ray Atkinson, Smithfield’s senior director of external communications, dismissed the allegations as “logistically and legally flawed.” He emphasized that providing opportunities for underrepresented minorities does not equate to discrimination against white males.

“The fact that we are providing opportunities for previously underrepresented minorities to advance their careers does not mean we are discriminating against anyone,” Atkinson said. “Smithfield is committed to a culture in which every employee is engaged and in which merit is the ultimate criteria for all employment decisions.”

Details of the Allegations

The contentious language in Smithfield’s sustainability report pledges to increase racial diversity in leadership by promoting and hiring qualified Black, Hispanic, and other underrepresented individuals to positions of supervisor and above, aiming for 30% representation by 2030. Additionally, the company aims to increase female leaders in supervisory roles to 35% and boost spending with minority-owned businesses by 14% by 2025 to create a more inclusive supply chain.

AFL’s letter to the EEOC characterized these goals as “targeting white males based on their skin color,” while the letter to Miyares alleged that Smithfield is “working hard to intentionally reduce the number of white men in Smithfield’s workforce.”

Legal and Community Reactions

The EEOC and Miyares’ office have both declined to comment on the letters. Meanwhile, Isle of Wight County’s NAACP chapter deferred to the statewide branch, which has not yet responded to requests for comment.

America First Legal, led by ex-Trump adviser Stephen Miller, has actively challenged diversity-focused hiring practices, filing at least 35 complaints and requests for investigation with the EEOC since 2022. Previous targets include prominent organizations such as Disney, the National Football League, and NASCAR.

Gene Hamilton, AFL’s Executive Director and former counselor to ex-Attorney General Bill Barr, expressed strong opposition to corporate diversity goals in a news release. “All Americans deserve equal treatment under the law, and none should ever face discrimination because of the color of their skin,” Hamilton said. “When Corporations adopt arbitrary goals related to the demographics of their workforce, they essentially provide both a license and a mandate to their HR departments to discriminate against certain people because of a characteristic completely outside of their control. It is wrong, it is illegal, and it must end.”

Smithfield’s Defense

Smithfield Foods stands by its diversity initiatives, arguing that these efforts are crucial for fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace. Atkinson reiterated that merit remains the cornerstone of all employment decisions at Smithfield.

“Our goal is to create opportunities for all qualified individuals, regardless of their background,” Atkinson stated. “Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is about recognizing the value that different perspectives bring to our organization and ensuring that every employee has the chance to succeed based on their abilities and contributions.”

Broader Implications

The controversy surrounding Smithfield Foods is part of a larger national debate over diversity and inclusion efforts within corporate America. AFL’s aggressive stance against such initiatives reflects a growing backlash among some conservative groups, who argue that diversity policies can lead to reverse discrimination.

In 2021, AFL represented Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller in a lawsuit against a USDA loan forgiveness program for minority farmers, claiming it was discriminatory against whites. A federal judge’s injunction on the program led to the passage of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which included $3.1 billion in loans for financially troubled farmers of any race and $2.2 billion for demographics that experienced past discrimination by the USDA’s farm lending program.

AFL is also involved in Project 2025, a strategic plan by the Heritage Foundation aiming to prepare conservative officials for dismantling the administrative state if a Republican wins the 2024 presidential election. Additionally, the firm filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Trump’s claim of “presidential immunity” from prosecution related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Conclusion

As Smithfield Foods navigates these legal challenges, the case underscores the complexities and contentious nature of diversity initiatives in corporate America. The outcome of this investigation could have significant implications for how companies implement and defend their diversity and inclusion policies. Smithfield Foods maintains that its practices are fair and inclusive, aiming to reflect the diverse communities it serves while ensuring merit-based advancement for all employees.

More company news: EEOC Lawsuit Against Smithfield Foods

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