US meat giant Tyson Foods has rejected claims that it has discriminated against woman when hiring employees at a plant in Illinois.

The US Department of Labour has issued a complaint against Tyson unit Tyson Fresh Meats and alleged the business rejected female job applicants at the site.

The department wants Tyson’s federal contracts to be cancekelled and urged that no new contracts are awarded to the company.

However, Tyson said the issue was one of “documentation, not discrimination”.

“We’re disappointed the Department of Labor has taken this course of action. Contrary to the impression left by the government’s allegation, it is our policy to provide a work environment free from unlawful discrimination,” said Ken Kimbro, Tyson’s senior vice president and chief human resources officer.

“We believe this is really about documentation, not discrimination.  The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ charges are solely based on an audit of job application forms at the plant, not on complaints by anyone who came to us seeking a job. We believe there were legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons certain applicants were not hired.”

Kimbro said the OFFCP audit was conducted in 2003 and 2004 and Tyson had since ensured it kept documents to support why it selects certain employees.

“We also routinely audit our practices to ensure there are not disparities against female or minority job applicants,” Kimbro said. “During the time period covered by the OFCCP review, minorities represented 66% of the workforce at the Joslin plant while women represented 28%.”