- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A federal appeals court has ruled that a 2011 discrimination lawsuit against Springfield-based Bass Pro Shops can proceed.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Texas by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011, accuses the outdoor retailer of discriminating against black and Hispanic job applicants, The Springfield News-Leader reported (https://j.mp/28MDgfM ).

The EEOC said that in 2010, 4.3 percent of the 8,839 employees across 52 Bass Pro locations were black. Comparing that to representation rate of black employees in the counties where the stores were located prompted the EEOC to conclude that Bass Pro “had a net shortfall of 629 Black employees in 2010.”

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans earlier this month agreed with procedural decisions by the federal court in Texas, allowing the case to proceed.

Kimberly Smith-Brown, an EEOC spokeswoman, said the agency was pleased with the decision and the agency looks “forward to having the merits of this important race and national origin hiring case heard in district court.”

Bass Pro, which has about 100 stores in the U.S. and Canada including one in Olathe, Kansas, has long denied the allegations and criticized the appeals panel’s decision, saying it lacks guidance for the district court on how to try the EEOC’s claims without violating Bass Pro’s rights.

“In response to this ‘figure it out as we go along’ approach, the company is considering a number of potential actions,” Bass Pro’s statement said.

The company also said the lawsuit “is particularly important to us because respect and fairness are essential values in our company and key components of our success. We are very proud of the fact that in an independent review conducted by Forbes, Bass Pro Shops has been voted ‘One of America’s Best Employers.’ We emphatically deny the allegations in the litigation and are determined to see this case through to a successful resolution.”

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Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com

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