Religious Beliefs, Workplace Issues Sometimes Hard to Reconcile

October 9, 2008

Author: Electa Draper

Source: The Denver Post

When religious beliefs and work rules clash, as they did in September for Muslim workers at a northern Colorado meat-processing plant during their holy month of Ramadan, the consequences can be devastating.

Federal laws require employers to accommodate an employee's sincerely-held religious beliefs and practices unless doing so causes undue hardship.

In the packing-plant dispute, more than 100 Muslim workers, most of them Somalis, were fired for refusing to show up for work in protest over JBS Swift & Co.'s refusal to allow them what they considered an adequate break for sunset prayers.

Those fired have the option of filing grievances, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints or lawsuits.

In response to the firings, both national Islamic and Jewish groups, such as the Anti-Defamation League, have urged respect for religious practices in the increasingly diverse workplace.