Swift Acted With Bias:Muslims were discriminated against by the meatpacker, the federal panel determines

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
prayer time…

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.

Muslim meat workers to discuss prayer conflict

Muslim workers involved in a dispute at the Grand Island meatpacking plant in Omaha, Nebraska, are preparing for a meeting to decide the next step. According to reports, at least 86 workers were fired after they walked off the job during a dispute over the workers’ right to prayer during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Mohamed Rage who leads the Omaha-Somali-American Community Organization said that up to 150 were fired after the dispute. The workers, most of whom are of Somali background, have been asking for accommodations to be made so that their break times are adjusted to occur around sunset – the time that Muslims generally break their fasts during Ramadan. One of the workers said that the break had been arranged and agreed by managers, but tension amounted when Latino co-workers protested the Muslim workers leaving to break their fasts. However, Dan Hopped of the Local 22 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union descried the events differently, saying that supervisors told the workers to return to work or leave – and the employees were fired after leaving. The meatpacking company, JBS Swift & Co said in a statement that the company is working to resolve the issue.

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