Cargill: No change in religious accommodation policy
Jan. 4, 2016
by Erica Shaffer
FORT MORGAN, Colo. – Cargill said it did not change its policies on attendance and religious accommodation, contradicting claims by Muslim employees who said they were not allowed to take breaks to pray.
On Dec. 21, about 200 Muslim employees walked off the job at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Fort Morgan, Colo., claiming religious discrimination. Representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Muslim workers said their “prayer accommodation request has been handled in a discriminatory manner by plant managers.” On Dec. 31, the workers, mostly Somali immigrants, were fired from the meat-packing plant.
Cargill said the company “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.”
The Fort Morgan plant has a “reflection area” to accommodate employees, however the company noted that “accommodation is not guaranteed every day and is dependent on a number of factors that can, and do, change from day to day. This has been clearly communicated to all employees.”
Cargill said its policy states that employees who don’t show up for work or call in for three consecutive days risk being fired. After about 190 workers failed to report to work or call in for second shift work at Fort Morgan on Dec. 21, 22 and 23, Cargill began termination procedures. “Efforts were made to communicate to employees who did not show up for work to ensure they understood their jobs would be at jeopardy,” the company said.
“Multiple attempts were made to discuss the situation with local Somali employees without a successful resolution, including a Tuesday (12/22) meeting at the plant management’s request,” Cargill said. “Plant management and union representatives met with Somali leaders without resolution.”
Cargill said it continues to operate two shifts daily at the Fort Morgan plant.