Staffing firm BaronHR pays $2.2M to settle claims it acquiesced to biased client requests

Dive Brief:

  • BaronHR, an Anaheim, California-based staffing firm, will settle U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allegations of discrimination for $2.2 million, the agency announced April 9. 
  • According to a 2022 complaint, EEOC alleged BaronHR consistently screened out non-Hispanic candidates for a laundry facility that “maintained a largely homogenous Hispanic/Latino(a) workforce.” It also steered candidates toward certain roles based on sex (carrying heavy loads for men, folding for women, for example) for the same employer. BaronHR also allegedly discriminated against people with disabilities by acquiescing to one employer’s request for “only physically fit workers with no current or prior medical conditions or injuries.” 
  • BaronHR said it is winding down business operations, EEOC noted — and the company filed for bankruptcy, according to April 12 court documents. Should it resume operations, it has agreed to hire a third-party monitor, conduct “significant training” and implement “robust reporting mechanisms.”

Dive Insight:

Staffing agencies are required to adhere to the same nondiscriminatory hiring practices as other employers.

“Title VII covers employment agencies, as well as employers, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin,” the EEOC has long maintained in guidance. “An entity that may not generally be considered an employment agency may be one for purposes of Title VII when it procures employment for employees,” it said.

BaronHR is not the first staffing firm to draw EEOC’s attention; in a similar case from 2022, a Buffalo-based staffing agency agreed to settle for $550,000 claims that it rejected Black and female applicants or placed them in lower-paying jobs. The agency also allegedly rejected applicants who were pregnant, had a disability, or were over 50, and classified jobs by gender.

As in the case of BaronHR, the agency seemed to be bending to the demands of a client. At the time, an EEOC assistant regional attorney told HR Dive via email that the “customer is not always right” when it comes to staffing demands, and illegal employment decisions include acquiescing to a client’s discriminatory preferences.