Fishing Tackle Giant Denies Claims of Discriminati

Bass Pro Shops denied allegations by the U.S. Equal Employment

Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that the company discriminated against

African American and Hispanic applicants in its employment practices and

that it retaliated against any employees. The EEOC filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday claiming that the fishing tackle retail giant had discriminated against minority applicants and employees and retaliated against those that spoke up about it.

“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,†said Mike Rowland, Vice

President of Human Resources.   “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 said it is extremely disappointed by the EEOC’s decision to

take action.

“The company has cooperated with the EEOC throughout its

investigation, providing extensive documentation and numerous

witnesses,†Rowland said. “Bass Pro vigorously denies the EEOC’s

allegations that the Company engaged in unlawful document destruction.  

It is our policy to retain all documents required by law. We provided

more than 250,000 pages of documents to the EEOC.

“Despite our cooperation, the EEOC made unrealistic demands during

conciliation.   The EEOC cannot or will not tell us the basis for the

analysis they claim to have conducted. 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.

“This investigation and the EEOC’s conduct demonstrate a troubling

tendency by the EEOC to stereotype those who love outdoor sports and

support conservation as people who unlawfully discriminate or oppose

equal opportunity for all. For example, EEOC staff

investigators have suggested on several occasions that because Bass Pro

sponsors a NASCAR race team the company is more likely to discriminate

against minorities.

“In addition, the EEOC staff raised questions about Bass Pro’s policy

against hiring convicted felons, claiming it discriminates against

certain minority groups, even though federal regulations prohibit

convicted felons from handling firearms, and Bass Pro sells firearms,

ammunition and explosives.

“Bass Pro has long been a significant supporter of numerous youth

development and conservation programs that give outdoor opportunities to

inner-city diverse youth.   As we challenge these unfair and unfounded

charges, we want to assure the millions of   people from all walks of

life who visit our stores annually that Bass Pro will continue to

provide the one-of-a-kind experience they have come to expect. And we will do so while fully complying with the law.†