150 Muslim Workers Fired From Denver Meat Packaging Company For Prayer ‘Walk-Off’

A Denver meat packaging company is at the center of controversy following the firing of approximately 150 Muslim workers who walked out of an assembly line for prayer. According to the Denver Post, the workers were part of a recent, highly-publicized “walk-off” after they left an assembly line at Cargill Meat Solutions to meet their daily prayer obligation.

The Muslim workers, who are mostly immigrants from Somalia, reportedly stopped working to pray in observation of salah, “a religious obligation that calls on followers of Islam to turn toward Mecca and pray at five predetermined times throughout the day,” according to Opposing Views.

The Muslim workers allege Cargill Meat Solutions refused to honor their requests by giving them an ultimatum. They were reportedly told, “If you want to pray, go home,'” according to Jaylani Hussein, a spokesman and executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Many of the workers later returned to complete the duration of their work shift, but the majority of those who left to pray did not and were represented by the CAIR who spoke publicly on their behalf.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, the Muslim workers were formally terminated through the company’s team of attorneys. Almost immediately after the termination was solidified, the CAIR stepped in on the workers behalf in an effort to resolve the mass termination issue. However, Cargill refuses to budge.

Under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are forced to comply with reasonable accommodations where religious preferences are concerned. There are two separate prayer rooms at the facility. However, the company adamantly argues that their requests to pray simultaneously cannot be met.

Since the plant produces approximately 4 million pounds of beef daily, shutting down for any amount of time during the day could be crucial to production. So, it is nearly impossible to accommodate approximately 200 Muslims who desire to take prayer breaks simultaneously at unexpected times.

It has been reported that the five daily prayer sessions occur approximately five times each day for five to 10 minutes each time. Although the workers were initially using time from their 30-minute, unpaid lunch breaks, that time frame definitely isn’t enough time for prayer based on the time they would need for 10-minute prayer blocks.

The mass termination of these Muslim employees follows a previous report detailing Cargill Meat Solutions’ struggle to accommodate Muslim assembly line workers. Back in 2011, Cargill spokesman Michael Martin released a statement citing the company’s legal obligation regarding religion, and how difficult it would be to shut down production each day to accommodate prayer requests for Muslim workers.

“We know that some of our employees would like a guaranteed prayer time every day,” Martin said in the 2011 report published by the Denver Post. “That is not the legal requirement, and it would be impractical to accommodate this without shutting down the production line.”

At this point, the CAIR is still negotiating with Cargill Meat Solutions but no mutual agreement has been met. The Muslim workers are still terminated. Do you think the Muslim workers should have been fired for leaving to pray simaltaneously? Do you agree or disagree with Cargill Meat Solutions? Share your thoughts.

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