A federal panel said Monday that it believed Greeley meatpacker JBS Swift violated the civil rights of more than 100 Somali Muslims it fired last year after a walkout over religious differences at the height of Ramadan, Islam’s holiest time.
The determination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission comes exactly a year after hundreds of Somali workers left the slaughterhouse because the company wouldn’t accommodate requests for
The Muslim workers had demanded time to pray at sundown, the end of a dawn-to-dusk fast, a requirement of Islam during Ramadan. More than 300 workers walked out when told they could not break for the day’s final
prayer. About 103 workers were fired days later, not for walking off the job but for not returning to work, Keys said.
The walkout touched off a storm of protests, mostly among workers of different religious faiths who railed at the request for religious accommodation. Federal law requires employers to accommodate the religious requests of its workers.
The EEOC determined Swift had violated a portion of the civil-rights act that forbids certain forms of discrimination in employment. Specifically, it said Swift engaged in a “pattern and practice of discrimination” that included harassment, a hostile work environment, discriminatory job assignments and discipline. It also said Swift denied religious accommodation and retaliated against workers who complained about it.