Religious tensions across the United States are unusually high at the moment, which is exactly why this prayer break conflict in the state of Colorado is a news story that’s quickly picking up pace. It comes as around 190 Muslim employees of a packing and distribution plant in the east of Colorado have seemingly been fired for taking time out of their work in order to pray.
The majority of the employees involved in this prayer break conflict appear to be migrants from Somalia, with over 200 of them walking off their jobs that Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado, shortly before Christmas. The employees appear to have been exercising their right to pray, but the company hasn’t responded in kind, choosing to fire over 190 Muslim employees involved in the process of this prayer break conflict.
Following the day’s action, a few of the company’s employees returned to work after their prayer break, but many didn’t come back. Instead, they turned to CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) to negotiate on their behalf. At the same time, Cargill Meat Solutions chose an attorney to represent their interests throughout the prayer break conflict, who in turn took the decision to fire the workers who didn’t return to work. The decision by the Kansas-based company that appears to be controversial.
— Ariens Company (@Ariens) January 16, 2016
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) January 19, 2016
The decision around this prayer break conflict proved especially controversial when you take into consideration that some of the employees had been working at the plant for well over 10 years, according to Jaylani Hussein from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who are representing the fired employees.
As you’re likely already aware, their religion dictates that depending on the season, Muslim workers need to pray at different times of the day. This praying time typically lasts around five to 10 minutes. However, the plant did not accept this need, with the workers being told, “If you want to pray, go home.” There’s a large amount of difficulty in the workers actually doing this considering the frequency of their prayer. Because of this decision by Cargill Meat Solutions, the whole situation around prayer break conflict has developed.
The mass firing has caused a slew of problems for many of the involved employees, especially when you take into consideration the fact that many of those employees have families that are reliant on their wages. It’s clear that this prayer break conflict spanned from a peaceful decision by the workers to simply walk off in the hope that managers would recognize their need for a prayer break. However, families of Cargill employees are likely hoping the prayer break conflict is resolved soon.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has said that it is continuing a dialogue with Cargill in order to find a solution to the prayer break conflict. There is apparently a teleconference scheduled for next week between the two parties, and CAIR representative Hussein is optimistic that Cargill will lift the firing and allow the involved employees back to work despite the fact that this would go against company policy. However, considering the publicity around this case, Cargill could make an exception to their own rules in order to bring an end to this prayer break conflict.
State law requires employers to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the business. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of position Cargill takes when it comes to defending their actions throughout the prayer break conflict.
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