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MC Dean settles Labor Dept. discrimination case

DULLES, Va. (AP) -- Electrical contractor M.C. Dean Inc. has paid $875,000 to settle a Labor Department allegation that its hiring practices discriminated against minorities.

Under the agreement announced this week, the contractor will pay $875,000 in back wages to 381 minority job applicants — 272 African Americans, 98 Hispanics and 11 Asian Americans — who sought work at the Dulles-based company in 2010.

M.C. Dean used written tests and personality tests as part of its hiring process for apprentices and electricians and those tests ended up weeding out minority applicants at statistically unacceptable rates, the Labor Department said. The allegations resulted from a routine review.

The department said it does not evaluate whether the tests' content was somehow discriminatory, but that M.C. Dean had an obligation under the law to know that its tests were producing an adverse impact on minority applicants. If a test does affect a minority group disproportionately, then a company must show that its tests fulfill a legitimate purpose in hiring.

M.C. Dean did not know that its tests were weeding out minorities at a disproportionate rate, the department said.

M.C. Dean said the settlement is not an admission of guilt and that it has a long history of affirmative action in its hiring. In a statement, the company said that in many of its job categories, the number of hours worked by minorities far exceeds standards established by the Department of Labor.

The company employs more than 3,500 people.