Cargill statement on religious accommodation at Fort Morgan beef plant
January 04, 2016
On December 18 during a shift at our Fort Morgan beef processing facility in Colorado, United States, 11 employees from Somalia working in one area of the plant requested simultaneous prayer. Their supervisor apprised them that they could go to prayer, but would need to do so in smaller groups of 2-3 people in order to ensure there were sufficient employees to continue operations without disruption. All the employees went to prayer, but 10 resigned at the end of the shift.
Over the next few days, we believe rumors in the Somali community at Fort Morgan spread that Cargill was ending prayer entirely due to a policy change. This is not correct, but appears to have led to approximately 200 employees to not show up for work on December 21. Multiple attempts were made by plant management to discuss the situation with local Somali employees and union representatives but without a successful resolution. Based on company policy, employees that do not show up for work, or call in, for three consecutive days were at risk of termination of their employment and efforts were made to communicate to employees who did not show up for work to ensure they understood their jobs would be at jeopardy. After employees chose not to call in or show up for work at Fort Morgan on the third consecutive day termination procedures were initiated and unfortunately the employment relationship with approximately 150 people ended.
At no time did Cargill prevent employees from prayer at Fort Morgan nor have we changed policies related to religious accommodation and attendance. Cargill is an equal opportunity employer that follows all applicable employment regulations. Cargill makes every reasonable attempt to provide religious accommodation to all employees based on our ability to do so without disruption to our beef processing business at Fort Morgan. In the Fort Morgan plant, a reflection area for use by all employees to pray was established in April 2009, and is available during work shifts based on our ability to adequately staff a given work area. As a USDA-inspected meat processing facility, Cargill’s Fort Morgan beef processing plant must meet federal government requirements related to food safety, workplace safety and other federal regulations. While reasonable efforts are made to accommodate employees, accommodation is not guaranteed every day and is dependent on a number of factors that can, and do, change from day to day. This has been clearly communicated to all employees.
Cargill takes our commitment to employees very seriously and this has been a regrettable situation. We continue to operate two shifts daily on weekdays at Fort Morgan and more than 400 Somali employees continue to work at our Fort Morgan beef processing plant.