Thursday, November 13, 2008
In what may be the first settlement in the country securing prayer rights, a federal district court in St. Paul, Minn., last Friday preliminarily approved consent decrees that settle two religious discrimination and retaliation lawsuits brought by the EEOC against St. Cloud, Minn.-based chicken processor, Gold’n Plump Poultry, Inc., and an employment agency, The Work Connection, which referred workers to it.
Under the decree Gold'n Plump will add, for one area of its plants, a paid break during the second half of each shift in addition to a break early in the shift and lunch breaks it had been providing as required by law. The additional break will accommodate the religious beliefs of Muslim employees who wish to pray during the course of the work day. The timing of the breaks will fluctuate during the year to coordinate with the religious timing for Muslim prayers, which is governed in part by sunrise and sunset. Gold'n Plump has also agreed to pay $215,000 to a class of Muslims who may have been disciplined or discharged when they took breaks to pray.
The Work Connection, which referred workers to Gold'n Plump, has agreed to pay $150,000 to the class for requiring applicants to sign a form stating that they would not refuse to handle pork in the course of their jobs and for turning away workers who refused. The Work Connection will no longer use that form and will offer placement at Gold’n Plump to job seekers previously turned away for refusing to sign the form.
For more information, the EEOC's press release is here and a Minneapolis - St. Paul StarTribune article on the settlement before it was approved can be found here. This is an important religious accommodation case for a group that the EEOC has been particularly concerned about discrimination against for some time.
Hat tips: Oliver Broudy, Paul Secunda