After roughly 190 Somali Cargill workers were terminated from a Colorado plant, Minnesota's Council on American-Islamic Relations is working to get the employees their jobs back.
Some Muslim employees at the Fort Morgan, Colorado, plant said they were denied breaks to pray on Dec. 18. The following week, about 190 employees failed to show up for work three days in a row, leading to their termination, per company policy.
CAIR Minnesota's executive director Jaylani Hussein said the group got involved because the union for the employees wasn't helping. He said the Somali employees were given time to pray in a "reflection area" for as long as 10 years, but that's something changed Dec. 18.
"Some employees missed their prayer that day," Hussein said. "They wanted to talk to management and they were told to go home if they wanted to pray."
In a statement the company said, "Cargill makes every reasonable attempt to provide religious accommodation to all employees based on our ability to do so without disruption to our beef processing business at Fort Morgan." Cargill added that, "while reasonable efforts are made, accommodation is not guaranteed every day and is dependent on a number of factors that can, and do, change from day to day."
Hussein said the employees felt like the policy had suddenly changed and decided to strike.
"When that happened these employees all stood together to respond to this new implementation of this policy," Hussein said.
Cargill said it provides reflection rooms for prayer, and that no policies had changed to prevent anyone from praying. Hussein said inconsistencies in that policy is what led to the entire disagreement.
"We believe Cargill is a great organization and that they have a long history of employing Muslims," said Hussein. "Unfortunately, in this plant, it seem there have been some abuse and some sort of policy that has been applied in so many different ways."
CAIR said it is continuing to work with Cargill and the terminated employees to get them back to work. Hussein said if they're unsuccessful, the group will explore other legal options.