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PRESS RELEASE
9-14-11

EEOC Sues Olam for Refusing to Hire a Pregnant Job Applicant

Job Offer was Rescinded after Company Learned of Applicant’s Pregnancy, Federal Agency Charged

FRESNO, Calif. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it filed a discrimination lawsuit against Olam Americas, Inc. and its two subsidiaries for refusing to hire a pregnant applicant into an executive assistant position at its Fresno, Calif. facility.  Olam Americas, Inc. is a leading supplier and processor of agricultural products and food ingredients. 

Executive management at Olam seemed initially impressed by the job seeker, extending an offer of employment to her in December 2010, according to the EEOC.  That sentiment changed rather dramatically after the applicant disclosed that she was pregnant.  Within days of disclosure, the offer was rescinded and an alternate, non-pregnant candidate was selected, contends EEOC.

The EEOC filed suit against Olam in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, arguing that the actions were a form of gender discrimination that violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (EEOC v. Olam America, Inc., Olam West Coast d/b/a Olam Spices and Vegetables, and Olam Tomato Processors, Inc., Case No. 11-cv-01548-LJO -DLB).  The EEOC’s suit seeks backpay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the applicant along with injunctive relief intended to prevent further instances of discrimination at Olam.  

“Women cannot be singled out of work simply because they become pregnant,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Fresno in its jurisdiction.  “The EEOC rigorously defends a woman’s right to be and stay employed irrespective of her child bearing status.”

Melissa Barrios, director of the EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, added, “Too often, employers veer away from evaluating candidates on their actual qualifications for the job at hand.  Adding judgments based on gender, pregnancy or any other legally protected basis is both illegal and costly.”

According to its website, Olam Americas, Inc. employs about 3,600 workers throughout the U.S.  Its parent company, Olam International, Inc., operates an integrated supply chain for 20 agricultural products in 64 countries, servicing 10,000 customers globally.

The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.