WICHITA, Kan. – Cargill has updated some of its employee policies following a recent misunderstanding with employees that led to 200 Muslim employees walking off the job at the Cargill Meat Solutions plant in Fort Morgan, Colo., claiming religious discrimination. The Wichita-based beef business has updated its policy related to the amount of time an employee must wait to reapply for a position with the company following termination. However, 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.

According to a company release, “Cargill Beef's religious accommodation policy remains unchanged. This religious accommodation policy has been in place for many years and was the subject of an apparent misunderstanding that led to nearly 150 employees being absent from work for the plant's second shift, Dec. 21-23, 2015. The religious accommodation policy applies to all plant employees. Accommodation requests are made to work area supervision and granted based on production line staffing and other factors that may vary day-to-day. Although not guaranteed, and not part of the meal and break periods that are part of the plant's union agreement with Teamsters local 455, the vast majority of religious accommodation requests are routinely granted during each of the plant's two weekday work shifts.”

The hiring policy at Cargill was changed to allow all former employees terminated for attendance violation or job abandonment to be considered for potential rehiring 30 days after their termination date – previously people had to wait 180 days to reapply. An attendance policy violation occurs when an employee misses three consecutive days without calling in or showing up for work.

“We believe the change in our beef business policy related to how quickly a former employee may be eligible to reapply for positions at our beef plants is a reasonable update to something that's been in place for quite a few years,” said Cargill Beef President John Keating. “The terminations at Fort Morgan appear to be based on a misunderstanding, or misinformation, about a perceived change in our religious accommodation policy that did not occur. Allegations that we were not going to allow prayer any longer are false. The result is that nearly 150 people found themselves in violation of our attendance policy and we had no alternative to termination. This change will provide for an orderly and expeditious reapplication process for people seeking an opportunity to potentially fill vacant positions at our beef plants.”

Cargill operates eight major plants — six in the US and two in Canada — and employs approximately 18,000 people.

“Cargill is a global company with a diverse workforce, which we believe is one of our strengths,” Keating added. “We celebrate, respect and encourage diversity in our beef business, which employs people whose origins span many different nations.”