A major US meat packaging company has agreed to pay $ 1.5 million to settle discrimination against Muslim workers who have quit the job in the dispute over prayer breaks.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced the financial agreement on Friday after several years of litigation between Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation and 138 Muslim workers, most of whom were Somali immigrants.
The dispute started at the end of 2016, after workers were fired after a three-day strike at a meat factory in Fort Morgan, Colorado.
Management has changed policy so that Muslim workers can take short prayer breaks.
The EEOC said it had "reasonable grounds to believe that Somali, African and Muslim employees were harassed, their petition for prayer breaks rejected and dismissed."
Cargill disagreed, but said that it would settle the case to avoid further litigation. The company also said that "Muslim workers are allowed to take short breaks to fulfill their obligatory prayers."
A teamsters' union representing the workers will pay them $ 153,000 to settle disputes related to the dispute. The EEOC said Teamsters Local 455 failed to champion workers – who are paid union members – and harass them because of their race, religion and national origin.
The union rejected the misconduct, but also agreed to grant a complaint to its union representatives and publicize workers' rights for a non-discriminatory work environment.
The American-Islamic Relations Council applauded the settlements, as did Denver's lawyer Qusair Mohamedbhai, who represented the workers.
"We are pleased with the agreement we have reached for the 138 former Cargill employees in this case and applaud the company for its ongoing efforts to give prayer requests based on its long-standing policies and values to people of all faith," said Mohamedbhai said.