skip to Main Content

Muslim Workers Receive $1.7M In Settlement With Cargill Over Prayer Breaks

Cargill Meat Solu­tions and a union have agreed to pay more than $1.7 mil­lion dol­lars to set­tle a case alleg­ing that Somali-American Mus­lim plant work­ers were wrong­fully fired in a dis­pute over prayer breaks.

The set­tle­ment, which was announced Fri­day morn­ing, came years after the late 2015 dis­pute with Somali-American Mus­lim work­ers at Cargill’s beef meat­pack­ing plant in Fort Mor­gan, Colorado.

Cargill Meat Solu­tions, which employs 155,000 peo­ple, said in a state­ment that while it did not accept the com­plaints, it had decided to set­tle in order to “avoid pro­tracted legal pro­ceed­ings and pro­vide all par­ties with a path forward.”

A small group of work­ers alleged that, a plant super­vi­sor told them in Decem­ber 2015 they could no longer take their reg­u­lar prayer break dur­ing their shift on the cut­ting floor — a prac­tice that’d been allowed for years. Har­vest Pub­lic Media pre­vi­ously reported that the employ­ees said plant super­vi­sors told them there’d been a change in pol­icy, which Cargill offi­cials denied.

Later that month, nearly 200 work­ers protested that alleged pol­icy change by not show­ing up to work for three days. Many of those employ­ees were fired, accord­ing to law firm Rathod Mohamedb­hai LLC and the Coun­cil on American-Islamic Rela­tions. The Equal Employ­ment Oppor­tu­nity Com­mis­sion, sided with the Somali-American work­ers in their 2017 fed­eral com­plaint.  Amy Burk­holder is the field direc­tor for the EEOC’s Den­ver office. She said news of the set­tle­ment as gar­nered national atten­tion at a time with the coun­try has become increas­ingly diverse.

“Peo­ple … are becom­ing well aware of how they should be treated in the work­place and their rights in the work­place,” she said.

Accord­ing to the EEOC, the set­tle­ment includes a $1.5 mil­lion pay­ment to 138 for­mer work­ers, as well as $153,000 from team­sters Local Union No. 455. The lat­ter is due to accu­sa­tions that the union failed to prop­erly advo­cate for the Mus­lim work­ers and sub­jected them to retal­i­a­tion and a hos­tile work environment.

“Pro­vid­ing our employ­ees with reli­gious accom­mo­da­tion is an impor­tant part of engag­ing and sup­port­ing our employ­ees, and our pol­icy has remained con­sis­tent for more than 10 years,” Cargill Meat Solu­tions pres­i­dent Brian Sikes said in Friday’s statement.

Lawyer Qusair Mohamedb­hai with Rathod Mohamedb­hai said in a state­ment that he applauds Cargill “for its ongo­ing efforts to con­sis­tently grant prayer requests to peo­ple of all faiths based on its long­stand­ing pol­icy and values.”

Click here to read this arti­cle in its entirety at