CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The second-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the nation will pay $495,000 to settle a federal case involving charges of racially discriminatory hiring practices.
The Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, a Charlotte-based firm that is separate from the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company, will pay the money in back wages plus interest to 95 black and Hispanic jobseekers who applied for sales positions in 2002, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
In addition, the bottler has agreed to offer jobs to those applicants until at least 23 are hired.
The labor department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs said an investigation determined that qualified nonwhite applicants were not being hired at the same rate as qualified white applicants. In some cases, the black and Latino applicants had more experience and education than some of the whites who did get jobs, according to the agency.
The office launched the investigation because the bottler is a federal contractor, supplying Coke-brand products to a number of military and government agencies.
``Being a federal contractor is a privilege that comes with an obligation to ensure equal opportunity in employment,'' said Patricia Shiu, director of the contract compliance office, in a statement.
The bottler agreed to the settlement, but admits no wrongdoing in the case, according to a statement provided by Alison Patient, director of corporate affairs at the company.
``Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated did not and does not discriminate against any person for any reason,'' the statement said. ``There were legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for not hiring certain applicants who are the subject of this claim.''