Nearly 200 Muslim employees at a meat packing plant in eastern Colorado walked off the job before Christmas, claiming the company refused to accommodate workplace prayer times.
On Tuesday, Cargill Meat Solutions of Fort Morgan fired the workers who did not show up for work over the dispute, the Denver Post reported.
The employees involved have retained the Council on American-Islamic Relations to represent them in the matter.
According to Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR, Cargill for several years had a policy of accommodating workers being able to pray throughout the day in five- to 10-minute blocks of time, incorporating that into their paid 15-minute breaks and unpaid 30-minute lunches.
The plant also established a reflection area for people of all faiths to use. Management would permit one to two workers to leave the production line at a time, as to not impede the overall operations. About 2,000 people are employed at the facility.
Hussein claimed that on Friday, Dec. 18, workers were not allowed to take prayer times. “The workers were told: ‘If you want to pray, go home,’ ” he said.
“They feel missing their prayer is worse than losing their job,” Hussein told the Greeley Tribune. “It’s like losing a blessing from God.”
The company has a six-month no-rehire policy for those who are fired, but Hussein is hopeful that requirement will be waived and the employees allowed to return to work.
Martin told Denver’s ABC 7 that the company’s prayer accommodation policy has not changed. In a statement, he said, “While reasonable efforts are made to accommodate employees, accommodation is not guaranteed and is dependent on a number of factors that can, and do, change from day to day.”
“The law requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the business,” according to the news outlet.