A national marketer and distributor of national and proprietary-branded food and food-related products engaged in a pattern or practice of failing to hire female applicants for operative positions, including as truck drivers, at distribution centers nationwide, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit announced Wednesday.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, since at least Jan. 1, 2004, Performance Food Group, and its predecessor, subsidiary and affiliate companies, have engaged in an ongoing pattern of refusing to hire women for operative positions at their broadline distribution facilities. These operative positions include: selector, receiving clerk, yard jockey, driver, driver trainee, driver check-in, forklift operator, mechanic, dispatcher, fueler, meat cutter, meat packer, router, sanitation specialist, transportation supervisors and warehouse supervisors.  

The commission claims PFG senior vice presidents and other high-ranking management officials repeatedly made comments that were tantamount to directing managers to favor males and to discriminate against females in hiring. Company vice presidents, it claims, openly proclaimed a bias against employing women, including stating that women cannot do warehouse work and questioning, "Why would we ever waste our time bringing in females?" Vice presidents also allegedly said that women would slow down the operation and that it would be a good idea to get the females "out of here." Company officials also pressured one facility to discharge a female employee and asked why they continued to "hire these girls," the EEOC said in the lawsuit.  

EEOC says such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting PFG from refusing to hire or promote women based on sex; equitable relief that provides equal employment opportunities for females; lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, among other measures.  

According to its web site Performance Food Group employs more than 11,000 people nationwide. The company, through its foodservice distributors, delivers over 98,000 national and proprietary-branded food and food-related products to more than 165,000 independent and national chain restaurants, quick-service eateries, pizzerias, theaters, schools, hotels, healthcare facilities and other institutions.