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A religious discrimination lawsuit against Muslims heads to trial

Many employees in Florida and elsewhere observe sincerely held religious times of worship and other observances. In most cases, these beliefs require a reasonable accommodation by the employers. Unfortunately, not all employers abide by state and federal laws and discriminate against workers because of their religious beliefs.

A meat packing company in another state is being accused of discriminating against its Muslim workers. In 2008, a group of Muslim workers were allegedly fired because they wanted to take their breaks at times that would coincide with their prayers during Ramadan. A U.S. District Court Judge denied the company's wish for a summary judgment in the case. More lawsuits were brought against the company for discrimination in 2010.

The company allegedly went out of its way to discipline the Muslim employees for taking their observances, even going as far as inspecting bathrooms. According to the company, what happened to those workers only happened one time, and it was not an indicator of widespread discrimination. It claims that since 2008 it has made changes so that the workers are properly accommodated by now having a prayer room, having the ability to switch their schedules, and having the ability to pray before and after work as well as their rest periods.

According to the EEOC, those changes were not enough to accommodate the religious needs of the workers, and the federal lawsuit will soon be going to trial. The EEOC wants the Muslim employees to have the ability to leave their work to pray at their prayer times without it being looked upon as an unscheduled break. The agency would also like to see that the employees' breaks will occur in accordance with prayer times. It is illegal for employers in Florida and elsewhere to create a hostile work environment or otherwise discriminate against employees based upon their religious beliefs. Similarly situated workers may choose to file claims and possibly be awarded damages, including lost wages and other financial relief, for the mental distress they suffer as the result of any wrongful conduct.

Source: kunc.org, "Lawsuit Alleging JBS Discrimination Against Muslim Employees Will Proceed", Luke Runyon and Harvest Public Media, July 28, 2015

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