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Lincoln Electric settles allegations of African American applicant discrimination

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CLEVELAND-- Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor say a contract compliance evaluation of Lincoln Electric, found that between 2005 and 2007, the global welding giant systematically rejected the job applications of more than 5,557 African Americans seeking entry level positions at the company's Cleveland facility.

Bradley Anderson, a supervisor with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said, "The majority of the applicants were African American. It turned out the majority of the hires were white, and that's what led to this systemic disparity."

According to a statement from the Department of Labor, since 2005, Lincoln Electric has been the beneficiary of more than $3 million in contracts with the federal government, and because of that, the company must follow federal guidelines on the hiring of minorities.

As part of a settlement of the discrimination case, federal investigators say Lincoln Electric has agreed to pay out a total of $1 million, to be shared by the more than 5,500 applicants, who were not given an opportunity to work. Anderson said the company has also agreed to change its hiring practices, and will offer entry-level jobs to 48 people who had been rejected, as positions become available.

In response to the federal investigation, Lincoln Electric issued a statement that reads in part: "Lincoln Electric is committed to diversity and non-discrimination, as outlined in our corporate code of conduct and ethics, emphasized by our values, our diverse work force, and how we operate each day. The findings do not reflect an individual complaint or hiring decision and the company continues to meet the equal opportunity standards required of government contractors."

Meanwhile, federal authorities have established a hotline, 1-877-716-9783, to identify the African American applicants rejected by Lincoln Electric between July 1 2005 and June 30, 2007, so that they can receive their share of the one million dollar settlement, which is about $180.