CAIR: Neb. Judge Denies Attempt to Dismiss Suit by Muslim Workers

Mar 03, 2011, 16:05 ET from Council on American-Islamic Relations

CHICAGO, March 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Nebraska judge has denied a motion by the Swift Beef Company seeking to dismiss a complaint filed on behalf of dozens of Somali-American factory workers who were allegedly discriminated against at its plant in Grand Island, Neb.

Swift argued that the employees' union should have been joined as a defendant, and because the union was left out of the lawsuit the entire complaint should be dismissed. The Judge ruled that the union is not a necessary party and thus the lawsuit can proceed.

The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a discrimination lawsuit in federal court last November on behalf of 49 Muslims factory workers who were fired from the plant. The lawsuit intervenes in a class action filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in August 2010 on behalf of more than 200 Muslim factory workers at the plant.

In 2008, Muslim workers at the plant began facing harassment, and in some cases termination, after requesting that their break schedules be adjusted to allow them to perform their daily prayers. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates that employers must accommodate the religious practices of employees unless it causes the employer undue hardship.)

After a year-long investigation into the complaints, the EEOC determined "such accommodation would not have posed an undue hardship to [Swift]" and that the evidence further establishes that Swift's supervisors "subjected Somali Muslim Employees to unlawful harassment, disparate treatment, and discrimination in terms and conditions of employment based on their religion, national origin, race, and color."

The EEOC also confirmed that some employees were unlawfully terminated in retaliation for their requests for religious accommodation.

"These employees worked hard and did not ask for special treatment. All workers are granted short breaks. Supervisors at the Swift plant, however, did not like that breaks were used to perform Islamic prayers," said CAIR-Chicago Civil Rights Director Christina Abraham. "Everyone deserves to be able to earn a living without sacrificing their beliefs to put food on the table."

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director, CAIR-Chicago, 312-212-1520, 202-870-0166, E-Mail:; Amina Sharif, Communications Coordinator, CAIR-Chicago, 312-212-1520, 630-935-5562, E-Mail:; Christina Abraham, Civil Rights Director, CAIR-Chicago, 312-212-1520, 847-971-7989: E-Mail:

SOURCE Council on American-Islamic Relations