The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined there is reasonable cause that the civil rights of Somali-American Muslims were violated when agri-business giant Cargill refused to allow them to pray at a meatpacking plant it owns in the western state of Colorado.
The finding was reached almost two years after about 150 workers walked off the job after supervisors informed them they could no longer pray during lunch breaks. Cargill, the largest private company in the U.S., then fired the workers for violating attendance protocol at the meatpacking plant in the city of Fort Morgan.
Cargill has maintained the issue was misconstrued by supervisors and employees.
"We do what is required by law and go further to provide additional religious accommodation in our U.S. locations," Cargill said in a statement Wednesday.
The EEOC, which enforces anti-discrimination federal laws, also determined last week that the local Teamsters union did not provide fair representation to the Muslim workers.
"The findings of the EEOC against Teamsters and Cargill reaffirms our strongly held belief that the Somali workers that were terminated were done so in violation of their federally protected rights," said Qusair Mohamedbhai, a lawyer with a Denver-based law firm that is representing the employees.
The EEOC's decisions were also applauded by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.