Federal investigators have ordered a Twin Cities food-service provider to pay nearly $400,000 in back wages and interest to 98 female employees who were paid less than their male counterparts.
A’viands Food & Service Management of Roseville denied the allegations but agreed to the payments and other terms in a settlement with the U.S. Labor Department following a routine compliance evaluation given to companies under contract with the federal government.
Along with making financial amends, more than $353,000 in back pay and nearly $46,000 in interest, A’viands has agreed to review and monitor its employee-compensation practices and “remedy any statistically compensation disparities” as necessary, the settlement agreement reads.
“The company strongly disagrees with [the] conclusions and denies any wrongdoing,” A’viands spokeswoman Debbie Albert said Wednesday. “However, given the age of this matter and the company’s desire to focus on delivering best in class service to its clients, we have agreed to settle this matter in a collaborative manner.”
Investigators reviewed company records, interviewed front-office personnel, other employees and considered “anecdotal evidence” and found that pay discrepancies were “based on sex and not based on legitimate explanatory factors,” the agreement read, adding that the violations date to 2011.
“Federal contractors must ensure their pay practices do not discriminate,” Carmen Navarro, acting regional director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs in Chicago, said in a statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor remains committed to holding companies with federal contracts accountable in ensuring equal employment opportunity at their facilities.”
The women were managers at client locations in the Upper Midwest and Southwest United States, where A’viands provided food service, said Labor Department spokeswoman Rhonda Burke.
Their duties “generally included supervising their respective team of food service workers, menu planning, budgeting and food ordering,” Burke said. “Some of them did actual food preparation alongside their staff, while others only had managerial duties.”
It is illegal for contractors and subcontractors doing business with the federal government to discriminate in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran.
A’viands’ website promotes itself as an equal-opportunity employer.
The company was founded in 2003 and has expanded its reach through various business deals.
It now provides services to more than 275 locations around the country and employs roughly 2,400 people. Its clients include businesses, colleges, health care facilities, prisons and public school districts.