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Fired Muslim workers can reapply for their jobs

Posted at 10:09 PM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-09 00:58:38-05

The town of Fort Morgan is feeling a ripple effect after the Cargill meat processing plant fired 150 workers over an alleged prayer dispute.

Now, the meat processing company is changing its policy to make it faster for those workers to get their jobs back.

Cargill announced on its website Friday that it is changing its termination policy, giving employees who walked out last month a chance to re-apply for new jobs in 30 days instead of 180.

However, inside an African clothing and grocery store in downtown Fort Morgan, the community is still in crisis.

"Everybody says, 'We're moving somewhere -- Minnesota, Nebraska' -- because of Cargill, because there's no other jobs in Fort Morgan," said Sahro Farah, who owns the store. 

"Our rent, I don't know how I can get next month's," said Farah. "I may also have to go to another state."

Cargill terminated workers who walked out for three days last month over an alleged prayer dispute, and some of those workers say shortening the timeframe for re-applying is not enough.

"They say there is no change in their policy, so if they don't allow us to go and pray, we can't go back and we don't like their re-hiring effort," said Mohamed Ahmed, who worked for the company for three years.

He said that the company has misrepresented what happened Dec. 18, when supervisors told them there was a new policy: No more breaks allowed for evening prayer.

Cargill has since denied that policy change.

The company's statement Friday reads: "Although not guaranteed... the vast majority of religious accommodation requests are routinely granted."

"I was there," said Abdulahi Hassan, another Cargill employee who was working during the shift and said he would like to go back, but only if he can get a guarantee.  "If they are going to let me pray, I will be the first one to go back to work. If not, nothing has changed."

Some employees too afraid to talk on camera said they do want their jobs back, but they are concerned about the re-hiring process.

CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said it is still working with Cargill to try to resolve the "ambiguous" policy on prayer.

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