Tyson sets age limit for local hiring

Tyson Foods Inc. will no longer hire anyone under the age of 24 to work in its Pine Bluff operation, according to an internal email sent by the company’s local employment manager.

In the Feb. 25 email, a copy of which was obtained by The Commercial, Employment Manager Kendra Bishop says: “Effective March 3, 2014 Tyson Foods in Pine Bluff, AR, will no longer hire anyone under the age of 24.”

The email, which was addressed to about 60 recipients, goes on to advise those recipients to communicate the new policy to all applicants.

Bishop did not return a call seeking comment.

Worth Sparkman, public relations manager for Springdale-based Tyson, responded to questions in an email.

“Each of our plant locations can structure hiring guidelines that best suit their workforce needs,” Sparkman wrote. “We’ve modified our hiring criteria for our team at Pine Bluff. As of Feb. 24, all new hires will have to be at least 24 years old to work in our production positions. We will make an exception on the age requirements for applicants who have served honorably in the military or are currently serving in the Guard or Reserve. This has not affected anyone who is already employed in the facility.

“We’re committed to ensuring all of our hiring locations consistently implement and follow our Employment Eligibility Policy,” Sparkman continued. “We also maintain a policy to ensure fair and equal employment opportunities are extended to all persons under federal, state, or local law. This policy applies to recruitment, selection, placement, assignment, training, promotion, demotion, rate of pay, benefits, leave of absence, lay-off, termination, and other conditions of employment.”

Federal age discrimination laws apply only to employees age 40 and above. Arkansas has a state age discrimination statute that includes younger workers, but it applies only to public employers.

The Tyson plant located at 5505 Jefferson Parkway was established in 1990 and has expanded multiple times, according to the Economic Development Alliance of Jefferson County. Tyson formerly operated a live processing plant on Second Avenue but that park was consolidated with the Jefferson Parkway operations and closed in 2004.

Tyson Foods Inc. reported total revenues of $34.4 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.