Cargill Meat Solutions, the company that fired 190 Muslims, has stated that it tried to resolve the workplace dispute over prayer timings. However, the steadfast refusal from the workers to cooperate with the company, mostly migrant Somali Muslims, led to their dismissal, it says.
Following an uproar, the company seems to be working on solving the issue and may be looking at rehiring the 190 Muslims. The Muslim workers claim to have worked for the company for over 10 years.
The workers had alleged their dismissal was due to the refusal from their bosses to respect their prayer timings. They added that their superiors never stopped them earlier, but following the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, the interference and intolerance grew to such an extent that the Muslim workers were allegedly told to go home if they wanted to pray.
However, Cargill Meat Solutions claims that the termination of the work contracts was issued after they failed to report to work for three consecutive days last week, reported the Spreadit. According to the protestors, there were unacceptable changes in times allowed for Muslim prayer, which resulted in a standoff that later escalated.
Cargill has maintained that the company makes every “reasonable attempt” to provide religious accommodation for all of its employees at the Fort Morgan plant but ensures that there’s no interruption in operations, reported the Denver Post. The company did add that while reasonable efforts are made to accommodate employees, it is not possible every day.
It stated, “Accommodation is not guaranteed every day and depends on changing factors in the plant. This has been clearly communicated to all employees.”
Clarifying the position and stand of the company, Michael Martin, a spokesman for the Wichita-based company, which is part of the agribusiness giant Cargill Inc., added, “At no time did Cargill prevent people from prayer at Fort Morgan. Nor have we changed policies related to religious accommodation and attendance. This has been mischaracterized.”
Martin also claimed that the workers weren’t fired because they weren’t allowed to prayer, as is being reported or claimed in multiple news outlets. Instead, the workers were let go because “[t]hey refused to work on an assembly line and walked out.” According to company policy, employees who do not show up for work or call in for three consecutive days will be let go, he said. Cargill’s meat plant does have a prayer area, called as “reflection room,” and the facility has been available to observant Muslims since 2009. However, as per the company’s policy, only two workers can access it at a time.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is representing more than half of the fired Muslim workers, indicated that the policies of the company, as well as the communication from plant supervisors, has not always been so clear.
Speaking about the possible case of misunderstanding or miscommunication, CAIR spokesman Jaylani Hussein said, “On Dec. 18, the Friday before employee protests began Dec. 21, the workers were told, ‘If you want to pray, go home.’ To these employees, that is what it is. Maybe Cargill never changed its policy, but to these employees, they feel whatever the policy is or how it is implemented, there was a change put in place.”
Prayer timings have always been dependent on the season, and Muslims pray at different times of the day. Prayers usually take between five and 10 minutes. The time for prayer was allotted to the workers Cargill either from the 15-minute break period or the workers’ 30-minute lunch breaks, which continue to remain unpaid.
[Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images]