About 150 Muslim workers at a meat packing plant in Colorado were fired for walking off the job to protest a workplace prayer policy.
The workers walked out of Cargill Meat Solutions in Fort Morgan earlier this month, and many have stayed away as representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations tried to negotiate a change in policy.
But Cargill ended up firing the workers who were holding out on Tuesday, a representative of the council told the Denver Post this week.
The representative said Muslim workers were previously allowed to pray at a prayer room at the plant in blocks of five to 10 minutes, but recently a decision was made not to allow prayer at the plant.
“The workers were told: ‘If you want to pray, go home,'” Jaylani Hussein said. Company officials told him the mass dismissal was over a “no call, no show, walk out.”
The time used to pray before was taken out of paid break time or unpaid lunch.
Hussein will try to negotiate with Cargill in a teleconference scheduled next week to let the workers reapply for their positions, which would go against company policy that doesn’t let terminated workers reapply for 6 months.
Cargill hasn’t commented since the mass firing, but last week, Mike Martin, director of communications for Cargill, told the Greeley Tribune that employees of all faiths are allowed to use a reflection area, but that because employees work on an assembly line only one or two at a time can use the area, to avoid slowing production.
He said company policies had not changed.
Martin added in a statement sent to 7News: “While reasonable efforts are made to accommodate employees, accommodation is not guaranteed and is dependent on a number of factors that can, and do, change from day to day.”
According to the station, a law requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the business.
The Fort Morgan plant employs more than 2,100 people, reported Al Jazeera, with almost a third from East Africa as of mid-2013.