Denver (Colorado, United States): A Fort Morgan meatpacking plant and the union that represents its employees will pay settlements to Muslim workers whose civil rights were violated when they were denied prayer breaks and then fired after they complained.
Cargill Meat Solutions will pay $1.5 million and the Teamsters Local Union No. 455 will pay $153,000 to resolve complaints filed in 2015 after the Somali-American workers walked off the job over the prayer breaks dispute, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission announced in a news release Friday.
Cargill has also agreed to train managers and hourly workers in accommodating Muslim employees’ prayer breaks at its Fort Morgan beef processing plant. The company denied wrongdoing but agreed to settle to avoid further litigation.
Cargill Meat Solutions had fired 138 workers in late 2016 for offering Namaz during service hours. In 2017, a federal anti-discrimination agency found that the workers had been harassed and discriminated against for protesting the unannounced policy change that denied them opportunities for obligatory prayer.
Hundreds of Somali-Americans work at the plant in Fort Morgan, northeast of Denver. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group, and Qusair Mohamed Bhai, a Denver attorney who represented the workers praised the settlement.
The settlement will be paid to 138 people, said Amy Burkholder, director of the EEOC’s Denver office. The company and the union have agreed to change policies and to provide training to managers and union representatives as part of the settlement, she said.
“We’re happy with Cargill and the Teamsters for changing policies. It brings them in line with our laws", Burkholder said.
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