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Several African-American job seekers filed a federal class-action lawsuit Tuesday against a Chicago-area staffing company, accusing employees of favoring Hispanic applicants, the New York Times reports.

The lawsuit alleges that MVP Staffing, which has offices in 38 states, used code words to discuss applicants’ race and utilized other discriminatory practices to comply with the racial preferences of its business clients.

One of the plaintiffs, Kevin James, told The Times he was sent on a job assignment just once. He recalled the agency sending Hispanic applicants to lots of work sites while he would sit waiting in the office.

A former MVP employee corroborates the allegations. Rosa Ceja told the newspaper that the staffing agency used code words when discussing job seekers, especially in emails, to hide evidence of racial discrimination.

They used the word “guapos,” which means “handsome ones” in Spanish to identify African-American applicants. They referred to Hispanics as “feos,” which means “ugly ones.”

Those descriptions, she said, referred to African-Americans not wanting jobs that required hard work or getting dirty.

Some companies preferred Hispanic workers, Ceja explained, because most were undocumented and seldom complained about work conditions, the report says.

Joe Sellers, the lead lawyer representing the plaintiffs, told The Times that racial discrimination is commonplace in the staffing industry.

The Times identified several other Chicago-area companies named as defendants in the lawsuit: Personnel Staffing Group, the Segerdahl Group, Mercury Plastics Inc., Jet Lithocolor, The Penray Companies Inc., WestRock Consumer Packaging Group, AGI Media, Lawrence Foods Inc. and the Blommer Chocolate Company.

SOURCE: New York Times

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