JBS USA, the US’ second-largest meat producer, will reportedly pay $5.5 million in a settlement over accusations that the company fired approximately 200 Muslim workers for practicing their religion on the job during Ramadan.
On May 21, JBS, the EEOC and several workers who intervened in the EEOC v. JBS USA case jointly filed a proposed consent decree in a Colorado federal court that aims to settle the now more than decade-long case. The proposal states JBS would pay $5.5 million to the fired Muslim workers and agree to overhaul its anti-discrimination policies
The case stems back to a 2010 lawsuit brought by the Equal Opportunity Commission that said JBS unlawfully fired scores of Muslum employees at one of its factories in Colorado. According to court filings, approximately 150 of those workers staged a walkout after JBS had barred them from taking unscheduled breaks for prayer during the holy month of Ramadan in 2008, while others were fired for taking unscheduled breaks.
Reuters reported May 24 that JBS said it wasn’t required to provide those additional breaks because doing so would slow production, cause safety issues and hurt morale of non-Muslim workers at the plant.
JBS attempted to argue the firings were justified on those grounds during August 2017, but a US district judge blocked that appeal, citing that JBS had destroyed timekeeping records needed to back up its claims. That judge also dismissed the EEOC’s claims that the firings were part of a pattern of discriminatory conduct at JBS. In August 2020, that judge denied JBS’ motion to dismiss the case.