HARLINGEN — A lawsuit filed against Bass Pro Outdoor World LLC on Wednesday alleges the sporting goods retailer engaged in a pattern of failing to hire blacks and Hispanics at its stores nationwide.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit specifies stores in the Houston area and Louisiana, and nationwide.
Bass Pro denies all allegations in the lawsuit.
“The EEOC’s allegations are contrary to our profound respect for and commitment to our team of experienced and knowledgeable associates, and we are determined to prove them wrong,” Mike Rowland, vice president for human resources, said. “Respect for our associates and our customers is central to the mission of our company, and it has been a key contributor to our success.”
Bass Pro Shops challenges these “unfair and unfounded charges,” Rowland said.
The lawsuit alleges that Bass Pro has “engaged in a pattern or practice of failing to hire African-American and Hispanic applicants for positions in its retail stores nationwide, and retaliated against employees who opposed the discriminatory practices.”
It alleges that managers made racially derogatory remarks that black job candidates did not fit the corporate profile.
The EEOC began its investigation into the allegations in February 2007, Tim Bowne, senior trial attorney for EEOC’s Houston office, said Wednesday.
Thousands of job seekers lined up in August to apply for the 450 positions at the Harlingen Bass Pro Shops store that is scheduled to open in October.
Bass Pro Shops could not be reached late Wednesday to comment on how many Hispanics and other minorities have been hired for the Harlingen store.
Bowne said that the investigation into the allegations concluded in 2010 at which time the EEOC probably did not have much data for Harlingen.
“If the hiring for staffing in the Harlingen store was like previous hiring in other locations, it is possible that the Harlingen store could be impacted and covered by the lawsuit,” Bowne said.
The EEOC tried over “a long period of time” to negotiate a settlement but that was unsuccessful, Bowne said.
Rowland said Bass Pro Shops cooperated with the EEOC, but the agency made unrealistic demands during conciliation and will not state the basis for its analysis.
“Fundamental fairness and good faith should require that the EEOC reveal the evidence on which its claims are based before filing a lawsuit that will be long, expensive and disruptive,” Rowland said.