Em­ploy­ees in Fort Mor­gan fired over a prayer dis­pute can ask to be re­hired sooner.

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Em­i­lie Rusch

Cargill will al­low work­ers who lost their jobs in a prayer dis­pute in De­cem­ber to reap­ply for their po­si­tions this month.

So­mali work­ers fired by Cargill Meat So­lu­tions in Fort Mor­gan dur­ing a work­place prayer dis­pute in De­cem­ber will be able to reap­ply for jobs at the beef plant this month, should they want to come back.

Wi­chita- based Cargill Inc. said Fri­day that changes to com­pany pol­icy will al­low any em­ployee ter­mi­nated for at­ten­dance vi­o­la­tions or job aban­don­ment to reap­ply 30 days af­ter his or her ter­mi­na­tion date.

Pre­vi­ously, for­mer em­ploy­ees had towait six months be­fore they could reap­ply.

“This change will pro­vide for an or­derly and ex­pe­di­tious reap­pli­ca­tion process for peo­ple seek­ing an op­por­tu­nity to po­ten­tially fill va­cant po­si­tions at our beef plants,” Cargill Beef pres­i­dent John Keat­ing said.

Cargill fired about 150 sec­ond­shift em­ploy­ees Dec. 23 for vi­o­lat­ing the com­pany’s at­ten­dance pol­icy af­ter they failed to call in or show up forwork for three con­sec­u­tive days.

The fired work­ers, most of whom were im­mi­grants from So­ma­lia, had been protest­ing what they thought were changes to time al­lowed for Mus­lim prayer.

The Coun­cil on Amer­i­can- Is­lamic Re­la­tions, which rep­re­sented more than 100 of the fired em­ploy­ees, said Fri­day their clients “want to re­turn to work and sup­port their fam­i­lies.”

“We hope this means that Cargill will con­tinue to con­sider changes to other poli­cies, par­tic­u­larly the pol­icy on prayer ac­com­mo­da­tion,” said Jay­lani Hus­sein, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of CAIR Min­nesota and a spokesman for the group. “There has been a pat­tern of hos­til­ity to their daily re­quests for prayer ac­com­mo­da­tions.”

The em­ployee protest be­gan Dec. 21, ac­cord­ing to CAIR, af­ter an in­ci­dent Dec. 18 in which a group of “work­ers were told: ‘ If you want to pray, go home.’ ”

Cargill, how­ever, said while not guar­an­teed, the “vast ma­jor­ity of religious ac­com­mo­da­tion re­quests are rou­tinely granted” dur­ing the plant’s two week­day work shifts.

“Al­le­ga­tions that we were not go­ing to al­low prayer any longer are false,” Keat­ing said.

Since 2009, the Fort Mor­gan plant has pro­vided a “re­flec­tion room” where Mus­lim work­ers are al­lowed to pray.

Ini­tial re­ports from Cargill put the num­ber of fired em­ploy­ees at 190, but the com­pany said Fri­day the fi­nal count is closer to 150.

“Sev­eral dozen” peo­ple in­cluded in the ini­tial fig­ure were ac­tu­ally out with an ex- cused ab­sence, spokesman Michael Martin said.

The plant has al­ready filled 30 sec­ond­shift open­ings. Work­ers earn $ 14 per hour and up and are rep­re­sented by a union, Team­sters Lo­cal 455.

How­many jobs will still be avail­able in late Jan­uary is un­known, Martin said.

“In a 2,100- em­ployee beef pro­cess­ing plant, there are al­ways some num­ber of open­ings,” he said. “In the course of a year, there’s a sub­stan­tial amount of turnover sim­ply be­cause the type of work is de­mand­ing.”

A sign an­nounces job open­ings at the Cargill plant in FortMor­gan, where about 150 em­ploy­ees were fired. Stephanie Alder­ton, Fort Mor­gan Times

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