Reasonable and practical accommodation — but here again, when Islamic practices and American practices conflict, the American practices have to be the ones that give way. As this continues, it will cause increasing tension in the workplace and in society at large.
“Somalis win prayer case at Gold’n Plump: The agreement to permit short prayer breaks and accommodate rules against handling pork could set a precedent,” by Chris Serres for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, September 10 (thanks to all who sent this in):
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.
The Work Connection, an employment agency based in St. Paul that hired workers for Gold’n Plump’s plants in Cold Spring and Arcadia, was accused in the class-action lawsuit of requiring Muslim applicants for work to sign a “pork acknowledgement form,” in which they agreed to handle pork products. It was alleged in the complaint that Somali workers who did not sign the document were not hired.
Snodgrass, the attorney representing the nine Somali workers, said there is some flexibility within the Islamic prayer schedule. In some cases, the windows for praying can extend several hours; and frequently the prayers last no longer than a bathroom break. He noted that the United States legal system has long accommodated the demands of Christians.
“There is a reason why your children have never gone to school on Christmas or Easter, and yet Muslim children go to school on the final day of Ramadan,” said Snodgrass. “What this case does is highlight that, for a minority, no matter how unpopular or popular they are, there has to be accommodations if they are reasonable and practical.”