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JBS Inks $5.5 Million Pact With EEOC in Suit Over Muslim Prayer

May 24, 2021, 1:10 PM

JBS USA LLC and the EEOC agreed to settle the agency’s decade-old religious, race, and national origin bias lawsuit alleging the meatpacker denied prayer breaks to and otherwise mistreated Somali Muslim employees at a Greeley, Colo., plant, federal court records show.

The company, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and a group of workers who intervened in the 2010 case asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to approve and enter the proposed consent decree, which also requires JBS to review and update its workplace anti-discrimination polices.

JBS will additionally “continue to provide one or more clean, quiet, and appropriate locations other than a bathroom for its employees to use for observation of their religious tenets, such as daily prayers,” according to the proposed decree.

Judge Philip A. Brimmer Aug. 25 denied JBS’s bid to dismiss the EEOC’s Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act discrimination and retaliation claims on behalf of individual workers during the second phase of the agency’s suit involving the facility. The judge in September 2018 dismissed the agency’s Phase I pattern-or-practice claims following a 16-day trial in August 2017.

All Phase I and Phase II claims, including for harassment and other bias, are covered by the settlement, according to the proposed decree, which was filed May 21.

It provides that JBS will pay up to $5.5 million for compensatory damages, lost wages and benefits, interest, and attorneys’ fees and costs to potentially hundreds of workers aggrieved by the alleged bias. The individual amounts paid to eligible participants will be determined by the EEOC, the pact said.

JBS agreed not to condition an eligible participant’s receipt of individual relief on his or her agreement to keep the settlement terms confidential, waive his or her statutory rights, or refrain from reapplying for work at any U.S. JBS location.

The company must also pay its share of payroll taxes for payments to eligible participants from the settlement fund that are allocated to back pay and reported on an IRS Form W-2, the pact said.

Any amounts remaining in the fund after all eligible participants have been paid will be distributed among some of the participants or donated to an EEOC-designated charity benefiting Somali refugees living in Colorado.

JBS must ensure its records show workers who share in the settlement are eligible for rehire, the pact said.

The company’s workplace policies must include a “clear and simple definition of religious accommodation” and explain the role of production managers and supervisors who receive and process worker religious-accommodation requests, or be revised to include such information.

JBS must also continue to provide translators for trainings, disciplinary meetings, and any meetings concerning religious-accommodation requests or job bias complaints, upon request, to any employee whose primary language isn’t English, the pact said.

The employee anti-bias training required by the settlement includes training for management and human resources employees who provide JBS’s anti-bias training to other workers.

EEOC attorneys in Denver and Phoenix represent the commission. King & Greisen LLP, McNamara and Shechter LLP, Law Office of David Lichtenstein LLC, and James Chiu of Denver represent the intervenor-plaintiffs. Sherman & Howard LLC represents JBS.

The case is EEOC v. JBS USA, LLC, D. Colo., No. 1:10-cv-02103, motion for entry of proposed consent decree 5/21/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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