FORT MORGAN, Col.- Minnesota based Cargill has come under fire for allegedly discriminating against its Muslim employs at one of its meatpacking plants in Colorado. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is now backing the claims of the Muslim employees.
According to the Star Tribune, employees allege that supervisors at the meat packing facility told employees that they would no longer be able to take prayer breaks on Dec. 18, 2015. The documents filed with the Colorado Department of Labor by the employees even allege that some were interrogated by their supervisors for going to the bathroom, to make sure that they weren’t using that time to pray. As a result of these restrictions some 150 employees walked off the job, and were subsequently fired by the company.
However, Cargill completely denies these charges. “We have a long-standing commitment to inclusion and diversity, and respect for religious freedom and expression,” Cargill said in a public statement on Wednesday, “We do what is required by law and go further to provide additional religious accommodation in our U.S. locations.” Cargill made available to employees a room for prayer in 2009. It also notes that no policy changes were made on the day in question.
According to the EEOC’s own statistics, relatively few alleged discrimination cases gain their backing. So why are they supporting this one?
Poor handling of the case by Cargill seems to be the most likely reason. According to the Star Tribune, during the course of the Colorado Department of Labor’s investigation, it became clear to them that the case did not hinge as much on whether or not the company or upper management has made in-print changes to their religious policy, but rather what the supervisors had told the employees. The state investigation issued subpoenas to Cargill’s supervisors, though the company failed to respond. In an interview conducted by the Star Tribune with Darin Mullen, the appeals branch manager for the state labor department unemployment insurance division, “Under the Colorado Employment Security Act, [Cargill was] required to comply with subpoenas. The way Cargill handled it was they argued they needed to be delivered directly to the supervisors. But then Cargill denied access to plant and would not provide home addresses.”
Going forward, Cargill has changed its hiring policy at the Fort Morgan meat packing facility shortening the amount of time between rehiring from 180 days to 30 days. Cargill has stated that it has rehired some of the employees who walked off the job.