In EEOC v. JBS USA, LLC, 8:10-CV-318 (D. Neb. Oct. 11, 2013), the EEOC claimed that JBS violated Title VII by engaging in a pattern or practice of failing to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of Muslim employees by failing to (1) allow them to take unscheduled breaks from the production line in order to pray, and/or (2) moving the meal break to coincide with the sunset prayer time. In dismissing the EEOC’s claims, Judge Camp found that JBS proved both of the proposed prayer accommodations imposed an undue hardship in two ways. One, both accommodations would result in more than a de minimis cost to JBS, including adverse effects on food safety, employee safety, and operational efficiency. Two, both accommodations would result in more than a de minimis imposition on non-Muslim coworkers who “would be required to work harder, under rigorous or potentially dangerous conditions, in part because they did not share their co-workers’ religious beliefs.” Id. at 37.
This decision provides a helpful guide for employers seeking to establish the undue hardship defense to a failure to accommodate claim under either Title VII or the ADA. Rather than speculating about possible harm, employers must be prepared to present concrete facts and figures to prove the real and potential negative impacts of a proposed accommodation.