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JBS USA LLC, which does business as JBS Swift & Co., will pay up to $5.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that charges it with race, national origin and religious discrimination at its Greely, Colorado, beef processing plant.
The lawsuit, which was filed in 2010, charged that JBS discriminated against employees because they were Muslim, immigrants from Somalia and Black, the EEOC said in its statement.
The agency said JBS denied Muslim employees the ability to pray as required by their religion, and workers were harassed when they tried to pray during scheduled breaks or on bathroom breaks.
The EEOC said during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in 2008 JBS shut off water fountains at the facility or tagged them to stop employees from using them, which prevented Muslim workers from getting a drink of water after fasting all day and from washing before prayers.
The company also denied Somali Muslim employees bathroom breaks and disciplined them more harshly than other employees, the EEOC said.
The EEOC said Black, Somali and Muslim employees were harassed on the job, with managers and other employees throwing meat or bones at them and calling them offensive names.
It said JBS tolerated offensive graffiti in Greeley’s restrooms that had racially harassing and obscene statements.
The company was charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Under terms of the consent decree settling the lawsuit, JBS will pay up to $5.5 million to about 300 employees, the statement said.
In addition, the decree requires JBS to take actions intended to correct and prevent further discrimination, including making all former employees covered under the decree eligible for rehire, and reviewing, updating and posting its anti-discrimination policies, among other measures.
EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows said in a statement, “This case serves as a reminder that systemic discrimination and harassment remain significant problems that we as a society must tackle. I am hopeful that the employer’s new policies, especially those providing for swift handling of harassment complaints and ensuring appropriate times and places for employees to practice their faith, are a step in the right direction.”
JBS did not respond to a request for comment.
JBS has been in the news because of a recent ransomware attack.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday a Virginia-based security services firm will pay $1.6 million to settle the agency’s systemic national origin and retaliation discrimination lawsuit.