Settlement reached in DeCoster discrimination lawsuit

Posted Oct. 15, 2013, at 6:27 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 16, 2013, at 5:51 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — The former owner of DeCoster Egg Farms has agreed to settle a federal discrimination lawsuit with a former plant manager who accused the owner of discrimination based on age, race and national origin and of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal Family Medical Leave acts.

The terms of the settlement between Homero Ramirez, 58, and his former employer, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, are not being disclosed by either party, per the agreement, Ramirez’s attorney, Benjamin Gideon, said Tuesday.

DeCoster’s attorney did not return a telephone call Tuesday seeking comment.

Ramirez, who was born in Mexico and was living in Lewiston when he filed his lawsuit, had alleged in his 12-count federal lawsuit that DeCoster ordered him to hire only Mexicans for his egg operations in Maine because they were willing to do dangerous or demeaning tasks.

His complaint also said he was forced to do dangerous work without the necessary safety precautions and was discouraged from seeking medical care.

DeCoster, who built one of the largest egg production operations in the United States, left the industry in late 2011 in the aftermath of a nationwide salmonella outbreak caused by his products, according to published reports.

An estimated 1,900 people were sickened in the outbreak, which led to a recall of 550 million eggs.

Federal inspectors later discovered filthy conditions at the farms, including dead rodents and towers of manure.

After the outbreak, DeCoster and his son, Peter, gave up control of their egg operations in Iowa, Maine and Ohio and entered a long-term lease with Moark LLC, a subsidiary of Land O’ Lakes.

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