Entergy Corp. sued over federal affirmative-action requirements

The U.S. Justice Department is suing New Orleans power provider Entergy Corp. for failing to comply with affirmative-action requirements for federal contractors.

The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in New Orleans, alleges that Entergy — New Orleans’ only Fortune 500 company — has refused repeated requests from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs for information on affirmative-action programs and other documents related to 11 of its facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi, New York and Texas.

According to the six-page complaint, Entergy has denied the government’s requests since May 2012.

The complaint states that as a federal contractor, Entergy is prohibited from discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, disability or protected veteran status. The company also is required to maintain written affirmative-action programs, retain employment records and provide access to the materials during a compliance review, it states.

The lawsuit asks that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman, who is presiding over the case, grant a permanent injunction that would force Entergy to produce the required documents within 30 days.

Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said Entergy has “more than $1 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts to provide services to the government.”

“This issue has been litigated and relitigated many times, and the courts have been clear: Companies that profit from federal contracts must comply with our requests for proof that they are meeting their obligations,” Shiu said.

Federal officials are unable to determine whether Entergy is in compliance with its affirmative-action requirements because the company has not turned over the requested documents, according to the complaint.

In court filings, Entergy contends that complying with all the government’s requests would be “expensive and burdensome,” and it notes that such costs would likely be passed on to customers. Receiving requests for documents on 11 facilities in a one-year span was “unprecedented” in its history, Entergy said, compared with typically receiving one or two requests a year, if that.

Entergy also contends that the requests violate its rights under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizure, because the Labor Department lacked evidence that the company was violating federal law.

Entergy spokesman Michael Burns declined comment Friday, citing the pending litigation.

The giant company provides electricity service in four states through subsidiaries, including Entergy Louisiana, Entergy Gulf States and Entergy New Orleans.

Local and state utility regulators said Friday that the lawsuit appeared to focus largely on a hiring dispute between the utility and the federal government, and that it was unlikely they would get involved.

Colby Cook, a spokesman for the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which oversees Entergy Louisiana and Entergy Gulf States, said the commission was reviewing the matter.

The New Orleans City Council regulates Entergy’s operations in Orleans Parish.

Meanwhile, Entergy Corp. said Thursday that it expects second-quarter earnings of about $1.04 per share, up from 92 cents a year ago, in part due to higher volume and prices in its wholesale generation business. Second-quarter earnings will be reported July 29.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.