The Nassau County Legislature has approved a $450,000 renewal contract for a Rockland County bakery to provide bread and rolls at the county jail, four months after the company agreed to pay an $850,000 fine to resolve federal allegations of discriminatory hiring practices against Blacks, Asians and women .
Nassau’s Rules Committee voted 4-3 for the agreement on Wednesday, with majority Republicans supporting the measure and Democrats opposing it.
In April, the US Department of Labor announced Rockland Bakery Inc. of upstate Nanuet had agreed to an $850,000 settlement to resolve allegations it had, “discriminated against female, Black and Asian applicants who applied to work as cashiers, packers and bakers.”
The agency conducted a review of the company’s hiring practices and found that in 2017, Rockland’s “practice of relying on a word-of-mouth employee referral and recruitment system contributed to, at least in part, the hiring disparities impacting female, Black and Asian applicants.”
The company also agreed to offer 52 jobs to female, Black and Asian applicants and “provide training to all company employees involved in hiring decisions, and review and revise its recruitment processes to ensure they are free from discrimination,” according to a Labor Department news releases.
Rockland Bakery accepted a “conciliation agreement” with the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs.
Rockland Bakery is a longtime Nassau County vendor and also supplies food to the US Military Academy at West Point, Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and Rutgers University, according to legislative documents.
“I understand that we need rolls … but at some point we have to draw the line,” Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said during debate Wednesday.
“We shouldn’t be entering into contracts with entities that clearly have discriminated against females, Black and Asian applicants,” Abrahams said.
Company officials did not immediately respond to several requests for comment Thursday.
Nassau County Inspector General Jodi Franzese alerted county officials and lawmakers to the settlement after her office had reviewed the contract proposal.
Franzese told legislators, “The vendor did disclose the investigation, but did not provide any specific details, and they didn’t provide the consent decree.”
On contract disclosure forms filed with the county, Rockland checked a box indicating it had been in violation of administrative, statutory or regulatory provisions.
A company representative wrote on the form: “The suit was because we hire walk ins as our hiring practice. We have hired a consultant to help us modify our hiring process and have started to implement a more in depth hiring procedure that meets the qualifications required by the federal government.”
Rockland Bakery is the jail’s current provider of bread and rolls, and since 2017 Nassau has paid the company $617,919 for services, according to records from the Nassau County comptroller’s office.
On Wednesday, the legislative Democrats sought to table the renewal contract, but the motion failed along party lines.
During the committee debate, Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park) said Still, “we don’t have much in the way of options here.”
Other courses of action would “a) cost more money and b) could potentially result in a lawsuit against this county because there’s no legal basis to declare this vendor not a responsible bidder,” Nicolello said.
Robert Cleary, Nassau’s chief procurement and compliance officer, told legislators: “This is an area you don’t get a lot of competition in, traditionally. It’s still a limited pool of vendors that you typically have” for baked goods on a large scale .
Rockland addressed the issue of the federal allegations “head-on” and is “doing everything that the Department of Labor is requiring them to do to correct their practices,” Cleary told legislators.
Rockland was the “lowest responsive, responsible bidder,” Cleary said.
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