DENVER, Colorado — The second-largest producer of beef, pork and chicken in the US will pay up to $5.5 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed the company had dealt with Muslim workers at a meat processing plant in northern Colorado. was discriminated against.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued in federal court in Denver in 2010, alleging that JBS Swift & Co. discriminated against employees at its beef processing plant in Greely and treated them more harshly than other workers. Disciplined because they were Muslims, immigrants from Somalis and Blacks.
JBS USA LLC, doing business as JBS Swift & Co., must pay $5.5 million to the approximately 300 employees who were involved in the agreement, the commission announced Wednesday.
JBS USA spokeswoman Nikki Richardson said the company accepts no liability in the settlement, prohibits all discrimination and harassment at its facilities and is “committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace.”
According to the lawsuit, JBS prevented Muslim employees from praying and harassed them when they tried to pray during scheduled breaks and bathroom breaks.
JBS was also accused in 2008 of shutting down water fountains during the holy month of Ramadan, preventing Muslim Somali activists from drinking at sunset after a day’s fast, and washing before prayer. According to the lawsuit, JBS managers and other employees hurled meat or bones at Black and Somali employees, called them offensive names and endured offensive graffiti in restrooms at the Greeley plant, containing the N-word and “Somali are disgusting.”
“This case serves as a reminder that systemic discrimination and harassment are important problems we must deal with as a society,” EEOC President Charlotte Burroughs said in a statement.
JBS must take a number of steps to prevent further discrimination, including allowing the re-hiring of former employees covered under the settlement; review, update, and post your anti-discrimination policies; and maintaining a 24-hour hotline to report discrimination. The company will also need to provide quiet places for employees to pray in addition to bathrooms.
Many Somalis began working at the Greeley plant after the 2006 US Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that detained 270 Hispanic workers.
The treatment of Somali workers came to the fore two years later when they asked company officials to move the plant’s scheduled meal holiday so that they could break the fast at sunset during Ramadan.
The authorities agreed to an earlier meal break, but changed course three days later, and, according to the lawsuit, Muslim workers who were told to go outside to pray were not allowed to return to the plant. .
According to the lawsuit, a few days later, what the company said was that several employees were fired for an unauthorized work stop.