Thursday, September 11, 2008

Somali Muslims win the right to prayer at work and refusing to work with pork.

Nation: This may have ramifications on the Swift firings a couple of posts down but for it to be a federal backed agreement is inviting trouble for companies and resentment by other religions.

In a landmark settlement that could change the way Muslims are treated in the workplace, St. Cloud-based Gold'n Plump Inc. has agreed to allow Somali workers short prayer breaks and the right to refuse handling pork at its poultry processing facilities.

The federally mediated agreement is among the first in the nation that requires employers to accommodate the Islamic prayer schedule and the belief, held by many strict Muslims, that the Qur'an prohibits the touching and eating of pork products.

"For this group of Americans at this time in our nation's history, this is a very important outcome," said Joe Snodgrass, a St. Paul attorney who represented workers in the case.

The agreement follows a year-long examination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a class-action lawsuit brought in October 2006 on behalf of nine Somali immigrants who worked at Gold'n Plump's poultry processing plants in Cold Spring, Minn., and Arcadia, Wis.

An EEOC attorney said both sides have reached a settlement in principle.

The settlement will include an undisclosed sum of money for some employees; and some workers may receive new offers of employment at Gold'n Plump.

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