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Bar Buzz: Wood products firm rapped

Rebecca Lucero


An Eagan wood products manufacturer has agreed to pay a $90,000 fine after the state Human Rights Department found it refused to hire women.

The department began investigating Villaume Industries in November after it learned—during a separate investigation—that the company had refused to accept women applicants from an employment placement agency, according to a news release.

The company, which produces wooden boxes, crates and pallets, was founded in the 1880s and once boasted of making gliders for the U.S. War Department during World War II.

Sex discrimination is prohibited under state law, and employers cannot refuse to hire an applicant based on sex.

The company has denied the allegations. It agreed to settle with the state agency to end the investigation and avoid litigation, according to terms of the agreement.

Part of the $90,000 fine will be paid as a donation to an organization that supports the advancement of women in the workplace, the agency said.

Other parts of the settlement agreement aim at a company culture change, according to the department. Other provisions in the agreement require Villaume to:

  • Recruit and hire women.
  • Amend all recruitment materials to explicitly state that it welcomes and values women in the workplace.
  • Establish relationships with organizations that help employers recruit qualified women.
  • Provide anti-bias, cultural humility and welcoming workplace training to employees.
  • Report hiring data to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights every 90 days.
  • Create, maintain and implement workplace anti-discrimination policies that comply with the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

“Refusing to hire women is blatant gender discrimination. It’s akin to posting a sign that says: women need not apply here,” said Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said in a March 1 press release.

“This settlement agreement helps bring attention to how women continue to face both explicit and implicit discrimination in the workplace,” she said.

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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