The U.S. Department of Labor announced Nov. 21 it entered into a conciliation agreement with Camden-based Cooper Health System to resolve alleged hiring and compensation discrimination at its facility.
“A compliance review by the department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs found that, from July 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2017, Cooper Health System discriminated against 64 female, Black and Hispanic applicants for nurse associate PRN positions, and discriminated against 337 affected individuals employed in supervisor, nursing and clerical positions by paying them less than comparable male and white employees,” the DOL stated.
According to the agreement, Cooper Health denies the department’s findings but wishes to resolve the issue. The health system agreed to pay $625,000 in back pay and interest to the candidates.
Cooper Health also said it will take steps to ensure that its personnel and compensation practices, including recordkeeping and internal auditing procedures, meet legal requirements.
The agreement does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing or violation of any laws on Cooper’s part, the statement explained.
Federal contractors are prohibited from discriminating in employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin. Cooper Health has federal contracts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
“When an employer accepts a federal contract, they must ensure equal opportunity in its hiring practices and pay their workers their full legally earned wages and benefits,” Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Northeast Regional Director Diana Sen in New York said in a statement. “This agreement will have a lasting impact on Cooper Health System’s workforce and sets a standard for the industry.”
Thomas Rubino, Cooper University Health Care’s senior vice president of communications, shared the following statement with NJBIZ:
Cooper University Health Care is a leading academic health system with an incredibly diverse workforce and patient population. Cooper categorically denies the preliminary findings of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). Cooper does not discriminate, and its hiring and compensation practices exceed all regulatory standards. Furthermore, no agency or court has found that Cooper violated any laws nor engaged in unlawful discrimination.
Cooper is known for its leadership in compensation practices and was the first health system in the state to institute a $15 an hour minimum wage. We use national experts to ensure employees are paid fairly and equitably.
Cooper is proud of its record of hiring, promoting, and retaining women and minorities. The health system’s workforce is made up of 75% women and 40% minorities. In the last 18 months, 50% of promotions at Cooper were earned by minority team members. Cooper’s record speaks for itself.
Cooper’s settlement of this matter was a business decision to avoid spending millions of dollars on further legal proceedings rather than patient care. OFCCP’s preliminary findings were based on a statistical analysis of data that was nearly seven-year-old. We could not disprove these preliminary findings because seven years ago records related to recruitment and promotions were manually maintained and some were missing. Cooper now has new, state-of-the-art electronic recordkeeping systems in place.
Cooper is pleased to end this costly review.