Hershey Accused by Legal Group of Racial, Sex Discrimination in Hiring

America First Legal asks EEOC to investigate diversity, equity, and inclusion plan

Hershey Accused by Legal Group of Racial, Sex Discrimination in Hiring
A Hershey's chocolate bar in a photo illustration in Encinitas, Calif., on Jan. 29, 2015. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
Beth Brelje

A legal foundation is seeking a civil rights investigation of candy and snack maker The Hershey Co., which the group says has been engaging in unlawful and discriminatory hiring practices.

America First Legal Foundation (AFL) sent a letter (pdf) dated March 28 to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), asking for an inquiry into individual or systemic discrimination at Hershey. It pointed to the Pennsylvania-based company's stated diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plan to build a workforce with specific percentages of immutable characteristics, such as gender.

By law, employers may not discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

“Hershey is well on its way to meeting its ambitious goals of 50 percent gender representation across its workforce and 42 percent of its leadership by 2025,” according to a Feb. 28 statement from the company. “Gender equity serves as a key element of the company’s enterprise DEI strategy.”

The statement includes a link to the company’s 2021 environmental, social, and governance (ESG) report (pdf), in which the company describes how it intends to ensure 30 to 40 percent representation of racial minorities across its U.S. workforce.

The report shows that Hershey offers some opportunities for special training only to nonwhite and female employees.

“We continue to invest in early-in-career and midcareer development and training to develop commercial skills and career building for POC [people of color] and women,” the report says.

Hershey officials didn't respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Discrimination Based on Characteristics

“The corporation attempts to justify discriminating based on a worker’s race, color, sex, and/or national origin in the name of ‘actively recognizing and developing talent that has traditionally been underrepresented,'” AFL said in its letter to EEOC. “There is ample reason to believe that the company has knowingly and intentionally violated federal law and will continue to do so.

"As early as 2019, Hershey’s was aware that its unlawful employment practices were creating legal risk. Regardless, the corporation has chosen to promote and use employment practices that are both patently illegal and deeply harmful.”

Discrimination based on immutable characteristics such as race, color, national origin, or sex “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone," the letter says.

“Hershey’s employment practices foment contention and resentment—they are odious and destructive. It truly is a sordid business, this divvying us up by race or sex,” AFL said in its letter.

“Congress made the correct decision decades ago to prohibit companies from discriminating against American citizens because of immutable characteristics like race and sex,” Gene Hamilton, AFL vice president and general counsel, said in a statement. “In recent years, it’s become apparent that a generation of corporate leaders and activists have decided that it’s actually okay to do so, as long as it leads to their desired outcomes. Quotas over quality. It’s illegal, it’s illogical, and it must stop.”

Beth Brelje is a national, investigative journalist covering politics, wrongdoing, and the stories of everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
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