(CNN) — Outdoor sporting goods retailer Bass Pro Shops is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly engaging in a pattern of hiring discrimination against African-American and Hispanic job applicants, the EEOC said in a statement Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The EEOC alleges the discrimination has been ongoing since November 2005.
EEOC Chairperson Jacqueline A. Berrien said the federal agency will protect the rights of job applicants, and that "excluding qualified individuals from employment because of their race or ethnicity or in retaliation for exercising protected rights are fundamental violations."
The lawsuit alleges qualified applicants were denied positions such as cashiers, as well as for various management positions. It goes on to claim that managers in Louisiana and in the Houston area believed that "hiring black candidates did not fit the corporate profile."
The EEOC also believes that managers at some stores retaliated against employees who were in opposition to the discriminatory practices and in some scenarios fired or forced employees to resign.
Bass Pro Shops issued a statement denying the allegations and maintaining that the company had cooperated fully with an EEOC investigation.
"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," Mike Rowland, vice president for human resources, was quoted as saying in the statement.
"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," Rowland said in the statement.
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