Dispute over workplace prayer prompts firing of more than 150 Muslim workers

Muslim meat-packers at Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan, Colorado, missed work to protest policies in regards to their ability to pray at work.

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  • A dispute over workplace prayer prompted Muslim employees at a Colorado meat company to protest by skipping three days.

  • And that absence led to the firing of about 150 workers at Cargill Meat Solutions.

  • Jareen Imam wrote for CNN that a group of meat packers at the Fort Morgan, Colorado, plant sought the opportunity to pray all at once in a room in the facility "set aside for prayer and reflection." Their supervisor requested they break in smaller numbers so production wasn't stalled, 10 workers resigned after their shift ended, and when news spread, about 150 workers missed work in protest.

  • Tom McKay wrote for Mic that Muslim Somalis "who had come west looking for work" made up the group whose employment the company terminated because of the dispute.

  • Emilie Rusch and Jesse Paul noted for The Denver Post conflicting accounts over why the firings happened.

  • Cargill indicated it made every "reasonable attempt" to accommodate workers in regards to their faith. However, accommodation isn't guaranteed each day and "depends on changing factors in the plant," the Post reported.

  • The protestors missing three consecutive days of work without giving notice violated Cargill's attendance policy, ending in the terminations, Cargill spokesman Michael Martin told CNN.

  • However, the Post's piece stated the official take on accommodations for the Muslims to pray was questionable.

  • "The Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is representing more than 100 of the fired employees, said Thursday that messaging from plant supervisors has not always been so clear," the report read. "On Dec. 18, the Friday before employee protests began Dec. 21, the workers were told: 'If you want to pray, go home,' CAIR spokesman Jaylani Hussein said."

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  • Hussein also explained to the Post the conflict the Somali workers faced.

  • "They feel missing their prayer is worse than losing their job," the Post quoted Hussein as saying. "It's like losing a blessing from God."

  • Before the employees had been allegedly told to "go home" to pray, they received five to 10 minutes to do so taken from their 30-minute lunch break, Emma Henderson wrote for The Independent.

  • And Cargill indicated there had been a "misunderstanding" and that policies hadn't changed, Nick Allen wrote for The Telegraph.

  • According to The Independent, some of those fired had worked at the plant for as much as 10 years.

  • Tony Aden, one employee terminated, told Jericka Duncan for CBS News why he protested and risked being let go.

  • "It don't matter if I don't have a job; my religion is more important," CBS News quoted Aden as saying.

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Payton Davis is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

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