Hormel Foods Corp. will hire three dozen women and pay more than a half-million dollars in wages to hundreds of female job applicants denied entry-level jobs at a hog plant in Nebraska.

The actions are the result of a settlement made with the U.S. Department of Labor that found Hormel may have discriminated against women in its hiring process at the hog-processing plant in Fremont, Neb. Hormel is a large government contractor.

“When contractors accept federal funds, they agree to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws,” said Thomas M. Dowd, acting director of the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. “This voluntary settlement ensures Hormel’s compliance and provides a remedy for the affected applicants.”

Hormel, based in Austin, Minn., did not admit guilt in the settlement. “While we disagree with the Department of Labor, we believe a settlement will avoid further litigation and an unnecessary distraction to our business,” the company said in a statement.

The 37 women hired at the Nebraska plant as a result of the settlement will receive retroactive seniority based on when they applied for a job. Hormel will dole out $550,000 in back wages among all 403 women who applied but were not hired.

Specifically, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found the company’s “selection practices discriminated against qualified female applicants for production positions from February 2008 to February 2009.” according to a news release.

The compliance officers also found Hormel failed to keep adequate hiring records.

The agreement comes just six months after one of Hormel’s wholly owned subsidiaries, Jennie-O Turkey Stores, Inc., settled a similar case with the Labor Department involving hiring practices at its Willmar, Minn., turkey-processing plant.

In that settlement, Jennie-O agreed to hire 53 women and nearly $492,000 in back wages to the 339 female applicants denied entry-level jobs.