Kohler Co. has agreed to pay almost $900,000 to more than 2,000 women who were not hired because they were too short.

The discriminatory hiring practices were discovered at its Kohler, Wis., plant during a routine compliance review by the Department of Labor. Kohler has $27 million in contracts with the government, so it must submit to periodic reviews.

"Kohler had an informal practice not to consider women who applied for jobs unless they were at least 5 feet 4 inches tall," said Alexis Herman, secretary of labor. "Women applying for jobs cannot be stopped at the door just because of their height or sex or because the company believes that certain jobs are unsuitable for women."

The company said the rule was intended to make sure employees could handle physical labor.

"The height restriction was not gender-specific; it's just that women tend to be shorter," Kohler spokesperson Ed Allmann told the

Associated Press.

In addition to the back pay, Kohler will offer jobs to the applicants until 111 have been hired. Kohler will also fund a $108,000 ergonomic study over the next three years to make jobs safer and eliminate unnecessary barriers to women, and will train its management and human resources staff to carry out the settlement.