JBS USA disputes allegations of discrimination at beef plant in Greeley, Colo.
for The (Greeley) Tribune
JBS USA disputes the allegations of discrimination laid out in a civil suit filed on Aug. 21 in the U.S. District Court in Denver, a spokesman said Wednesday.
“(We) will fully defend our interests,” Cameron Bruett, a corporate affairs spokesman for JBS, wrote in a Aug. 22 statement to The (Greeley) Tribune. “We enjoy a diverse workforce of cultures from around the world and work hard to provide an inclusive environment of opportunity for all of our team members.”
A civil rights attorney has filed a civil lawsuit against JBS USA in Greeley, Colo., and officials at the beef plant in Greeley claiming company officials discriminated against a former human resources supervisor on religious grounds.
Eudoxie “Dunia” Dickey, on behalf of 37-year-old Kacem Andalib, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District court in Denver against JBS USA; Anthony Rickoff, human resources manager for the JBS Greeley beef plant; and Rigo Mendiola, director of human resources for the plant. The suit alleges Rickoff said Andalib was to blame for any problems the company might experience as the result of the “recently enacted Muslim Ban.”
“Rickoff outrageously accused (Andalib) that, ‘It’s all your fault, you freaking terrorists!’” court filings read. “Suggesting that (Andalib), a U.S. citizen, and his fellow co-workers were terrorists merely by virtue of his and their perceived or actual religion, race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, alienage and/or national origin.”
The filing notes Rickoff is a non-Muslim, white man. When Andalib approached Mendiola about the statement, Mendiola informed Rickoff of the complaint and failed to take any corrective or disciplinary actions, according to the lawsuit. Mendiola then promoted Rickoff in summer 2017, making him Andalib’s direct supervisor. According to the suit, Rickoff then began a campaign of retaliation.
Andalib applied for the human resources manager position in early May 2017. Andalib was first hired at the JBS beef plant in Greeley in October 2014, after working in the meat production industry. According to Dickey, Andalib came to the United States when he was 19 and attended Prairie View A&M University in Texas, where he graduated with a 4.0 grade point average.
Employees at the beef plant in Greeley speak about 36 languages, according to court documents. Dickey said Andalib is fluent in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic and Moroccan. According to the filing, Rickoff, who was hired in early 2017, is fluent only in English.
Andalib eventually made a formal complaint about Rickoff’s retaliatory efforts to Mendiola, who forwarded the complaint to corporate. Aside from an interview with corporate, the filing reads, officials “failed to meaningfully investigate, discipline or take any corrective action whatsoever.”
Mendiola, a non-Muslim, Latino man, proceeded to treat Andalib less favorably than his colleagues in human resources, who were primarily non-Muslim, white and Latino, according to the suit. Mendiola denied Andalib’s requests for a work laptop, trainings and the company’s human resources software, filings read, while granting similar requests to non-Muslim, non-Arab and non-Moroccan employees.
In the spring, Rickoff terminated a Muslim employee of Somali origin, documents read. When Andalib asked why, he claims Rickoff responded, “I’m doing my share of making America great again!”
In April, Mendiola and Rickoff separately ordered Andalib to conduct an investigation with a Burmese employee in the fabrication office, the filling reads. Rickoff asked Andalib to leave the office without providing a reason, according to documents, then Rickoff left with two union representatives and the Burmese employee. The Burmese employee then closed the door and approached Andalib.
“(The Burmese employee) came back running to (Andalib) and saying, ‘Bai (‘Brother’ in Burmese) I scared, Bai I scared,’ in an agitated manner because he was a Rohingya minority and was terrified that if he lost his job he would be deported to Burma, where violent ethnic cleansing against members of his family and other Rohingya was then occurring,” according to the filing.
Andalib claims Rickoff then falsely accused Andalib of closing and refusing to open the door and of yelling at Rickoff about the incident. The filing claims Rickoff’s falsified version of events were used to get Andalib fired. Andalib went on to file a claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits. A deputy for the Colorado Department of Labor concluded Andalib was the target of false accusations. JBS officials had the deputy’s decision reversed on appeal, without any notice to Andalib while he was visiting his sick mother in Morrocco, according to the filing. The Colorado Department of Labor and the Employment’s Industrial Claims Appeals Office is reviewing the reversal.
“Effectively, defendants allowed discrimination and retaliation against Muslims, Arabs and Berbers and employees of Moroccan, Somali or other African national origin to grow and fester in the heart of the very highest levels of its very own Human Resources department,” according to the filing.
“These false accusations are inconsistent with our culture and do not reflect the values of the company or the employees cited in the suit,” Bruett said. ❖