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July 4th, 2012

EEOC, BP resolve gender bias claims stemming from oil spill

HOUSTON, TX - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and BP Exploration and Production, Inc. recently announced a voluntary resolution of an EEOC investiga­tion relating to the hiring of women by contractors providing temporary labor for the oil spill response in 2010. The EEOC’s investigation was based on concerns raised by several women in Louisiana and Alabama that certain contractors participating in the oil spill response did not consider them for the cleanup effort because of their gender. The resolution, memorialized in a confidential conciliation agreement, avoids protracted litigation and covers a class of female applicants in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

There has not been a determination that BP violated anti-discrimination laws and BP denies that it has engaged in any wrongdoing. This is a voluntary resolution, under which the EEOC and BP are partnering to ensure that contractors used during emergent situations in the future are as committed to equal employment opportunity as BP.  The agreement includes contractual safeguards requiring contractors to abide by EEO laws, training for BP adminis­trators who engage contractors, and a designated BP employee who will monitor the terms of the agreement with the EEOC. BP also plans to partner with others in the industry to share lessons learned during the spill in order to further emphasize the importance of equal opportunity in hiring, even under circumstances as challenging as the events in 2010.

R.J. Ruff, the EEOC’s Houston District director, praised the resolution of the matter outside of court action, stating, “We are delighted to partner with BP in ensuring the future compliance with employment laws in the Gulf region and across the country. We are proud of the timely and thorough work of the assigned investigators and staff at the New Orleans Field Office.” Keith T. Hill, the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office director, said, “Preventive action to ensure - even in an emergency - that civil rights laws are followed is at the foundation of the EEOC’s mission to stop and remedy unlawful workplace discrimination. We applaud BP’s willingness to aggressively combat sex discrimination in the workplace by sharing its experi­ences and best practices with its peers, requiring its contractors to comply with federal employment laws, and making a settlement fund available for qualified women who sought employment with BP’s contractors as part of the 2010 spill clean-up effort.”
Mike Utsler, president of BP’s Gulf Coast Restoration Organization, echoed the EEOC’s sentiment.  “BP has been and continues to be committed to being an industry leader when it comes to EEO issues.  BP looks forward to working with the EEOC to achieve our mutual goal of non-discriminatory hiring, even in the most extreme and time-sensitive situations.  BP will not tolerate conduct by any contractor doing work for BP that does not comport with BP’s core value of equality in the workplace.”

Under the agreement between BP and the EEOC, BP and its contractors will pay up to $5.4 million to a yet-to-be-determined class of women in the Gulf region who applied for jobs during the response with oil spill response contractors.  Applicants seeking compensation may be required to submit information to support their claims. Undistributed money from the settlement fund will be donated to a Gulf-area charity that benefits women in the workplace.

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