CAIR-Chicago Files Suit on Behalf Somali Workers Fired by Neb. Swift Plant

Class action lawsuit claims meat packing plant fired workers without just cause

CAIR-Chicago filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court on behalf of 49 Muslims of Somali heritage who were fired from Swift Co, a meat packing plant in Nebraska. The lawsuit intervenes in a class action filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in August.

In 2008, Muslim workers at the plant began facing harassment, and in some cases termination, after requesting that their break schedules be adjusted to allow them to perform their daily prayers. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates that employers must accommodate the religious practices of employees unless it causes the employer undue hardship.)

After a yearlong investigation into the complaints, the EEOC determined "such accommodation would not have posed an undue hardship to [Swift]" and that the evidence further establishes that Swift's supervisors "subjected Somali Muslim Employees to unlawful harassment, disparate treatment, and discrimination in terms and conditions of employment based on their religion, national origin, race, and color."

The EEOC also confirmed that some employees were unlawfully terminated in retaliation for their requests for religious accommodation.

"These employees worked hard and did not ask for special treatment. All workers are granted short breaks. Supervisors at the plant, however, did not like that breaks were used to perform Islamic prayers. Everyone deserves to be able to earn a living without sacrificing their beliefs to put food on the table," said Civil Rights Director Christina Abraham.

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