Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Court Refuses To Dismiss EEOC's Suit Against Meat Plant Alleging Failure To Accommodate Muslim Employees

In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. JBS USA, LLC, (D CO, July 17, 2015), a Colorado federal district court refused to dismiss a suit brought by the EEOC charging that a Swift & Co. beef processing plant in Colorado failed to reasonably accommodate Muslim employees' need to leave the production line to pray at or near sundown. A large number of Muslim employees were terminated in 2008 after they and the company could not reach agreement for accommodations during Ramadan. The suit also charged a pattern of retaliation, discriminatory discipline and discharge.The EEOC previously lost a similar suit involving the same company's processing plant in Nebraska. The court held that the EEOC is not collaterally estopped by that case. Moving to the substantive issues, the court concluded that genuine issues of material fact remain both as to the reasonableness of the company's and the EEOC's proposed accommodations and as to whether the EEOC's proposal imposes an undue hardship on the company. Similarly disputes of fact remain as to the EEOC's discrimination and retaliation claims-- including issues of whether a one-time layoff of numerous employees amounts to a pattern or practice of discrimination. An EEOC press release summarizes the decision which is discussed at greater length at Workplace Class Action Blog.