Australian contractor Worley is to pay $1 million to resolve alleged gender-based pay discrimination at its Houston, US location, which was formerly operated by Jacobs Engineering.

During a routine compliance evaluation, the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Compliance Programs (OFCCP) found that Jacobs had discriminated against 42 female, black and Hispanic employees at its Houston location on or before 31 December 2016.

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The evaluation found the company paid these affected employees working in controls systems engineering, project engineering, quality control and scheduling/planning less than their counterparts.

The OFCCP determined that the company’s actions violated Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating in employment based on race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.

Worley denies these allegations, according to the Department of Labor.

However, Worley will pay $500,000 in back wages and interest to 42 employees and will allocate a further $500,000 in salary adjustments. The contractor will also provide compensation training to managers and human resources workers.

“Worley strongly believes in diversity, inclusion and respecting our people, as they are our greatest asset,” read a company statement, as reported by Business Insurance.

The contractor added that when it became aware of the issue in Houston after the [Jacobs] acquisition, it “agreed proactively to correct the issue through paying back pay, interest and salary adjustments to the 42 affected employees”.

“We are also committed to training managers and human resources workers to ensure such issues don’t develop again.”

Worley, the US headquarters of which is in Houston, assumed control of Jacobs Engineering’s operations there in April 2019 as part of its acquisition of the engineering player.

Level playing field for all workers

“The law is very clear, federal contractors must provide a level playing field to all workers, regardless of their race or ethnicity,” said OFCCP regional director Melissa Speer.

“All employees deserve equitable pay, and we are glad that Worley Group proactively agreed to correct the issue early.”

Upstream was unable to reach Worley for independent comment at the time of publication.