Business

Caldwell company pays $200,000 to settle discrimination claims

Crookham Co.’s CEO George Crookham shows off a machine that sorts between seeds and non-seeds at their processing plant.
Crookham Co.’s CEO George Crookham shows off a machine that sorts between seeds and non-seeds at their processing plant. Katherine Jones / Idaho Statesman

Crookham Co., a seed company based in Caldwell, will pay $200,000 in civil penalties to the federal government to settle allegations that the company illegally discriminated against non-U.S. citizens.

The Justice Department announced the agreement Monday. The agreement also subjects Crookham Co. to three years of monitoring.

“We want to do things right, and we had a few errors which we immediately corrected,” the company’s CEO George Crookham told the Statesman Monday. “They [the Labor Department] brought it to our attention.”

Crookham said the violations resulted from “oversight and misunderstanding.”

In the settlement agreement, the company denied violating the law.

Crookham Co. produces hybrid sweet corn, popcorn and onions.

The Justice Department’s investigation found that between January 2014 and January 2016, Crookham required non-U.S. citizens to produce either a permanent resident card or employment authorization card to prove they were authorized to work.

The company allowed U.S. citizens to choose any type of valid documentation, the department said.

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows all workers, including non-U.S. citizens, to produce whatever type of valid documentation they choose to prove their work authorization.

“We commend Crookham Co. for its cooperation throughout the investigation and for its quick action to remove any unnecessary and unlawful barriers to employment for work-authorized non-citizens,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanity Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The company’s approach and this settlement serve as a model for partnerships between the Justice Department and employers who want to do the right thing.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanity Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division

Before the settlement, Crookham “proactively underwent department-provided training ... and voluntarily implemented other measures to ensure future compliance,” the department said in a news release.

The company also removed citizenship-status questions from its job application.

Second federal investigation this year

Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued Crookham Co. a $9,360 penalty for a different set of violations.

The penalty was for serious violations associated with a workplace fatality in January at the company’s Caldwell plant off Simplot Boulevard near Centennial Way.

Francisca R. Gomez, 63, died shortly after her hair was caught in a piece of machinery, pulling her against the machine. The Canyon County coroner said Gomez’s death was accidental, caused by blood loss and traumatic asphyxia.

Crookham’s president, George Crookham, gave a statement to KIVI 6 On Your Side shortly after Gomez’s death, saying it was “an enormous personal loss to each and every one of us.”

Audrey Dutton: 208-377-6448, @IDS_Audrey

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