The federal government has accused Minnesota boat maker Lund Boat Co. and its parent company of discriminating against more than 200 women who applied for jobs at its plant in New York Mills.
The Labor Department said on Thursday that it has filed an administrative complaint that seeks to penalize the manufacturer by canceling its government contracts and ordering it to provide remedies to the affected job applicants.
According to the complaint, Lund Boat contended that women were less likely to be hired for entry-level positions at the plant because they lacked the preferred manufacturing experience.
However, the Labor Department says an investigation by its Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found that men who lacked manufacturing or related experience were chosen at a higher rate than women who had manufacturing experience.
"That's not fair. It's not right. And it's against the law," Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith said in a statement.
Lund parent Brunswick Corp. declined to comment.
The move against Lund is the second hiring discrimination action this week against a Minnesota company by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
On Tuesday, the regulator accused Cargill Inc. of hiring discrimination at an Arkansas turkey plant, a move that threatens more than $550 million in meat supply contracts with the Defense Department.
The government contends that the discrimination at Lund occurred from at least January 2006 through the present. The Labor Department said it tried unsuccessfully to get Brunswick to voluntarily comply with the government's hiring rules in its Lund division.
Lund, founded in Minnesota in the 1960s by the late Howard Lund, is a storied Minnesota brand -- the company's aluminum fishing boats ply waters across North America and the company's website still has a homey touch, displaying recipes for cooking walleyes and crappies.
Brunswick, based in Lake Forest, Ill., bills itself as the world's largest maker of pleasure boats, with sales of $3.4 billion last year. A major marine, fitness and bowling manufacturer, its well-known boat brands include Sea Ray, Bayliner, Hatteras, Cabo Yachts, Crestliner, Cypress Cay and Triton.
Brunswick added Lund to its lineup when it acquired Lund Boat from Genmar Industries in 2004. This fall Brunswick announced plans to expand Lund Boat's New York Mills plant.
According to the Labor Department, in the past two years Brunswick has held federal contracts worth nearly $23 million.
The department has begun displaying a more aggressive stance in its audits and investigations, employment lawyers say.
"Over the last six months, there does seem to be a significant stepping up of activity in these type of cases," said Marshall Tanick, a Twin Cities employment lawyer who represents companies and workers. "I've gotten a couple of contacts from employers who've been subjected to such investigations.
"Clearly their pattern is to be more vigorous."
Scott Allen, a Labor Department spokesman, called the timing of the two Minnesota cases a coincidence.
"I wouldn't say we're doing any special emphasis on this," he said. "It's just the cases concluded around the same time."
Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683