Smithfield Foods denies diversity hiring is ‘targeting white males,’ as Trump-aligned law firm claims

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, June 20, 2024

A law firm founded by ex-Trump administration officials is asking the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares to investigate Smithfield Foods, alleging that the world’s largest pork producer’s efforts to hire a diverse workforce discriminate against white males.

America First Legal – founded in 2021 by Stephen Miller, an ex-adviser to former President Donald Trump – alleged in June 13 letters to the EEOC and to Miyares that the company “knowingly and intentionally uses race, color, and sex as a motivating factor in its employment practices.”

Ray Atkinson, senior director of external communications for Smithfield Foods, called the two letters “logistically and legally flawed.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The letters reference language in the company’s 2023 sustainability report in which the company pledges by 2030 to “increase the racial diversity of our leadership team by promoting and hiring qualified Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented individuals to positions of supervisor and above in support of our current goal of 30% representation” and hire “qualified female leaders to positions of supervisor and above in support of our current goal of 35% representation.” The letters also take issue with Smithfield Foods’ goal of increasing “production facility spending with minority-owned businesses by 14% to achieve a more inclusive supply chain by 2025.”

The EEOC letter characterizes Smithfield’s statements as “targeting white males based on their skin color,” while the letter to Miyares alleges the company to be “working hard to intentionally reduce the number of white men in Smithfield’s workforce.” Foods denies both claims.

“The fact that we are providing opportunities for previously underrepresented minorities to advance their careers does not mean we are discriminating against anyone,” Atkinson said. “Smithfield is committed to a culture in which every employee is engaged and in which merit is the ultimate criteria for all employment decisions.”

As Miller himself is not an attorney, both letters are authored by Julia Haller, senior counsel to America First Legal and an ex-special counsel to the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump administration.

“All Americans deserve equal treatment under the law, and none should ever face discrimination because of the color of their skin,” said America First Legal Executive Director Gene Hamilton, ex-counselor to former Attorney General Bill Barr during the Trump administration, in a news release. “When Corporations adopt arbitrary goals related to the demographics of their workforce, they essentially provide both a license and a mandate to their HR departments to discriminate against certain people because of a characteristic completely outside of their control. It is wrong, it is illegal, and it must end.”

EEOC and Miyares’ office each declined to comment on the letters.

Isle of Wight County’s NAACP chapter deferred to the statewide branch, which did not immediately respond to The Smithfield Times’ request for comments.

America First Legal has filed at least 35 complaints and requests for investigation by the EEOC since 2022 against businesses and organizations they deem “woke” for diversity-focused hiring practices. Prior letters named Disney, the National Football League and NASCAR.

In 2021, America First Legal represented Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, in his personal capacity as a rancher, in a lawsuit challenging a $4 billion U.S. Department of Agriculture loan forgiveness program for minority farmers as discriminatory against whites. When a federal judge granted the requested injunction, Congress instead passed the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $3.1 billion in loans for financially troubled farmers of any race and an additional $2.2 billion earmarked for any demographic that has experienced past discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s farm lending program.

The firm is also on the advisory board of Project 2025, a so-called 180-day playbook organized by the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank that calls for “an army of aligned, vetted, trained and prepared conservatives to go to work on Day One to deconstruct the Administrative State” in the event of Trump’s reelection or another Republican president, and in March filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Trump’s claim of “presidential immunity” from prosecution for his role in efforts to overturn his 2020 loss to current President Joe Biden.