Sep 112008
Authors: Collegian Editorial Board

Apparently, religious persecution is alive and well in our fair state.

On Wednesday, JBS Swift and Co., a Greeley slaughterhouse, fired more than 100 Muslim workers after they failed to report to work, protesting the company’s refusal to grant a prayer break during their shifts. Specifically, the workers sought a brief break at sunset for the purpose of delivering the day-end prayer during the month of Ramadan — in which Muslims break a daylong fast with a prayer at sunset.

Swift responded to these calls by moving workers’ 30-minute break to 8 p.m., an hour earlier in the day, but still long after sunset. Tuesday’s protest followed a Friday walkout in which more than 400 of the meat-packing plant’s 2,000 employees were involved — 250 of which were suspended for leaving work without permission, according to The Denver Post.

While it’s understandable that granting this break could be difficult for the Swift plant, it’s high time the plant reevaluates its policy. These people aren’t refusing to work during their month-long religious holiday — they just want a small accommodation to allow them to perform their duty as a member of the Muslim faith: to pray at the end of the day. And it’s not just a handful of folks asking — it’s a sizable chunk of their working population.

If you’re going to hire a large number of employees from a specific group, you need to be willing to make basic concessions to keep them around. It’s doubly important when you’re talking about a religious observance — you start firing Muslims for wanting to pray, you’ll likely have a lawsuit on your hands. Swift owners needs to rethink this one, if they know what’s good for them.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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