The Labor Department has debarred a Louisiana food-service firm from federal contracting because of its failure to develop an affirmative action plan, marking only the second time the Reagan administration has punished a company for violating the controversial minority hiring guidelines.
The order by Secretary William E. Brock comes while President Reagan is being urged by Attorney General Edwin Meese III to rescind the rules that require government contractors to set numerical goals for hiring minorities and women.
The order was signed by Brock, who opposes scrapping the rules, on Aug. 21, shortly after disclosure of the Justice Department effort to end the program, which governs recruitment and hiring practices at an estimated 73,000 work places employing 23 million people.
The timing of the order, which prohibits William B. Reily & Co. from selling food and beverages to the Defense Department, was coincidental, according to a spokesman for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, who asked not to be identified.
The last debarment was in March 1981, according to the compliance office, and only 27 firms have been punished for violations since the program was started in 1965 by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The Reily firm, which employs about 1,000, was debarred because it has failed to develop a plan since November 1981 and "efforts at conciliation and persuasion failed," the compliance office said. Following a hearing, a departmental judge ordered Reily's contracts canceled and barred the firm from any bidding until it complies.
"The allegations were not answered by the company, and the department took action," the spokesman said. Company officials could not be reached.
Under the affirmative action plans, companies are required to draft goals usually based on local percentages of minority workers. Some firms have complained that Labor has been too rigid in enforcement, while critics have said the department has been lax under the current administration.
While Meese and Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds have favored dropping requirements, Brock has said he wants to preserve them but allow more flexible methods of enforcement.