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LAFAYETTE — A staffing company and the federal government are settling a case over a woman who sued last year over alleged hiring discrimination.

Automation Personnel Services Inc. will pay $50,000 in the settlement after allegedly denying the woman a job, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The commission sued the Alabama company on behalf of the victim.

The lawsuit stemmed from an incident in 2012 in which the plaintiff, Andrea Williams, attended a career fair in Lafayette. She attempted to apply for a shipping job that Automation Personnel had available, but, according to EEOC, she was told the position was for men only.

Although there are instances where employers are permitted to seek a specific gender for a position, Automation Personnel was not within its rights to do so.  

"Federal law does permit exclusion based on sex, but only in a very limited circumstance when sex is a 'bona fide occupational qualification,' such as a job as a wet nurse," John J. Donohue III, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in employment discrimination, told the Louisiana Record.

An EEOC official commended Automation Personnel for settling the case quickly and avoiding a further legal fight. A fast settlement may have been in the company's best interest. 

"This is a pretty obvious case of unlawful discrimination, so settling could be helpful for a number of reasons," Donohue said. "It avoids the costs of litigation and also the reputational harm of losing in court. Additionally, if the firm has employment discrimination insurance, it allows the insurance company to pay the settlement amount, which they might not do if there was a finding that the firm had engaged in intentional discrimination."

There are simple steps a company can take to avoid potential hiring discrimination suits from occurring, according to Donohue.

"Hiring managers [need] to have a clearer understanding of the law and perhaps have periodic review by outside counsel to make sure that employment discrimination laws are being complied with," Donohue said.

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