Automation Personnel Services has paid to settle a lawsuit by an applicant turned away by a New Orleans branch manager who told her "this is a man's job." Pictured is the company's Chatanooga branch, where former employees say they received orders for “country boys,” or white workers. Credit: Jeremy Brooks for Reveal Credit: Jeremy Brooks for Reveal

Earlier this year, Stephen Nordness pledged “real-life changes” at his Alabama-based temp agency, Automation Personnel Services Inc.

Nordness was responding to a Reveal investigation that found rampant discrimination at his company, which provides temporary employees to industrial employers throughout the South. Whether Automation’s customers wanted only white workers or only Latinos, only men or only young people, the temp agency was happy to oblige, according to dozens of former employees. Black workers often were hit hardest by the illegal practice.

Just days after the story ran in The Birmingham News, Nordness, Automation’s president and CEO, vowed to get to the bottom of it by hiring an outside firm to investigate.

“I’m not someone that is going to look at this and try to sweep it under the carpet,” Nordness said in a January interview.

Last week, however, Automation’s vice president, Randy Watts, said the investigation had concluded and the results would “remain confidential.” He did not provide any details.

The company, Watts wrote in a short statement, “remains committed to hiring the most qualified workers available and contributing millions of dollars to local economies in the 33 locations we serve across the U.S.”

In March, Nordness wrote to Reveal that he was going to meet with the outside investigator shortly.

“After the meeting I will gladly give you a complete list of changes we have implemented,” he wrote.

Instead, Watts subsequently wrote by email, “We can say that we are reviewing and assessing our next steps and remain committed to being a first-in-class employer of choice and promoting a workplace that is free of discrimination and harassment.”

Michelle Clemon, a local human resources consultant hired by Automation, told Reveal that she did conduct an investigation but would not comment further.

After Reveal’s story, Automation also set up an employee complaint hotline through the Texas-based firm Employment Practices Solutions. The number is 1-800-837-6855. Automation did not respond to questions about the complaints it has received so far.

Will Evans can be reached at wevans@cironline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @willCIR.

Will Evans is a senior reporter and producer for Reveal, covering labor and tech. His reporting has prompted government investigations, legislation, reforms and prosecutions. A series on working conditions at Amazon warehouses was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and won a Gerald Loeb Award. His work has also won multiple Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards, including for a series on safety problems at Tesla. Other investigations have exposed secret spying at Uber, illegal discrimination in the temp industry and rampant fraud in California's drug rehab system for the poor. Prior to joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2005, Evans was a reporter at The Sacramento Bee. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.