WASHINGTON – Cargill Meat Solutions, law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced that they have reached a settlement to resolve Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges filed on behalf of 138 Somali-American Muslim workers. The workers at a Fort Morgan, Colorado-based Cargill plant filed a suit alleging wrongful termination based on discrimination. The Somali Muslim employees were not given permission to take breaks to pray.
In March 2016, lawyers filed federal complaints of employment discrimination on behalf of about 150 Somali Muslims working at Cargill Meat Solutions’ Fort Morgan processing plant. The complaint stemmed from an incident in December 2015 when about 200 Muslim employees walked off the job, claiming they were not allowed to take breaks to pray. Cargill denied the allegations at that time, saying the company’s religious accommodation policy had not changed.
The company explained that the Fort Morgan plant has a “reflection area” to accommodate employees but 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.”
The settlement agreement includes a financial payout of $1.5 million to the 138 terminated employees.
“We are gratified with the settlement reached for the 138 former Cargill employees that we represented in this proceeding and applaud the company for its ongoing efforts to consistently grant prayer requests to people of all faiths based on its longstanding policy and values,” stated Qusair Mohamedbhai of Denver law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC. “We appreciate the collaborative efforts of Cargill and Cargill’s commitment to continue to communicate its longstanding prayer accommodation practices.”
Cargill does not accept the basis of the EEOC complaints, however the company decided to settle the matter out of court to avoid a legal proceedings, the company stated. In conjunction with the settlement agreement, Cargill has reaffirmed its commitment to continue to allow Muslim workers to take short breaks to pray.
“Providing our employees with religious accommodation is an important part of engaging and supporting our employees, and our policy has remained consistent for more than 10 years,” said Brian Sikes, president of Cargill Meat Solutions.
“We commend Cargill for reaching this settlement with 138 of its former employees and for valuing the religious diversity of its workers,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “We applaud this settlement, which represents a mutually agreeable resolution of this case, and we welcome Cargill’s commitment to accommodating the religious needs of Muslim workers and workers of other faith backgrounds.”