Meat Packer Harassed Somali Muslim Employees, Refused to Accommodate Their Prayer Needs, Federal Agency Charges
DENVER – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed two lawsuits today in federal court alleging that JBS USA, LLC, which does business as meat packing company JBS Swift & Company, discriminated against a class of Somali and Muslim employees at its facilities in Greeley, Colo. (its headquarters facility), and Grand Island, Neb.
The suits allege that JBS Swift created a hostile work environment for its Somali and Muslim employees due to their race, national origin, and religion. The complaints allege that supervisors and coworkers threw blood, meat, and bones at the Muslim employees and called them offensive names. The complaint filed in Colorado alleges that there was offensive graffiti in the restrooms at the Greeley facility, EEOC v. JBS USA, LLC d/b/a JBS Swift & Company, 10-CV-02103 PAB-KUM (D. Colo.), which included comments such as “Somalis are disgusting” and “F..k Somalians”, “F--k Muslims, and “F--k Mohammed.” The suit filed in Nebraska alleges that supervisors and coworkers made comments to Somali employees at the Grand Island facility such as “lazy Somali” and “go back to your country.” EEOC v. JBS USA, LLC d/b/a JBS Swift & Company, 8:10-cv-00318-TDT (D. Neb.).
The two complaints include allegations that JBS Swift engaged in a pattern or practice of religious discrimination when it failed to reasonably accommodate its Muslim employees by refusing to allow them to pray according to their religious tenets. Both complaints further allege that JBS Swift retaliated against the employees by terminating their employment when they requested that their evening break be moved so that they could break their fast and pray at sundown during the month of Ramadan, an Islamic holiday requiring a daytime fast from sunup to sundown.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This litigation originated from the filing multiple charges of discrimination with the EEOC. During 2008, the EEOC received 83 discrimination charges from employees at the Greeley facility and 85 from employees at the Grand Isle facility alleging discrimination on the basis of religion, race, color or national origin. The charges of discrimination were jointly investigated by the EEOC, the Colorado Civil Rights Division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies, and the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.
“The issue of national origin and religious discrimination in the workplace has become more significant as more immigrants with different ethnic and religious backgrounds join our workforce,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “The laws of this country prohibit harassment based on national origin, and mandate that employers accommodate employees’ religious practices so long as doing so does not create an undue burden on the employer.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.