Tuesday, March 15, 2016

To Work or To Pray

Cargill Meat Solutions has helped many Somali refugees by providing jobs. A plus of the job was that the Muslim workers were allowed to have prayer times. However, in mid-December their religious prayer breaks were going to be cut back. Many workers left in protest and later, 150 of them were fired for leaving work. Mike Martin, a company spokesman, said, "'There has been no change to our religious accommodation policy...The granting of prayer requests has always been based upon adequate staffing.'" Muslims working here have filed discrimination complaints and say that should be accommodated under 1964 Civil Rights Act under Title VII. It is argued that this is violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

Cargill has been nothing but accommodating to these Somali refugees. Not many companies would allow one to two 10-minute prayer breaks per shift. They employed many, many Muslims and the moment it does not go their way they are going to file religious discriminatory claims against the company that has been helping them for the past ten years? Allowing these prayer breaks was extremely generous. Most places would not allow these multiple prayer breaks. Sometimes under-staffing requires workers to work the whole time they are there, not step into their specially-made prayer cubicles. Additionally, Cargill tried to get every one of their employees back. They could not promise the original prayer times that had been set prior.

As pointed out many times in class, people have the right to believe but not always the right to act. They can believe that they need to pray multiple times a day, but sometimes circumstances do not permit that kind of dedication. These Muslims are going to have a hard time finding a job that allows them to have any prayer time at all. When they left work that day, it was their decision. They left a huge company to struggle to meet the day's quota. When they came to America and wanted the "American Dream", they should not have expected everything to go their way and for everything to fall into place. America has taken these refugees, Cargill has taken these refugees (they are also being paid almost double minimum wage).

There is little basis to the religious discrimination claims because Cargill has hired many Muslim employees since 2005. They built special prayer-cubicles for these Muslims to prayer in during their shifts. They asked for all of the employees to come back, and only ten have returned. This is all their decision to leave work and not come back.

This is similar to other free exercise cases we have studied in that the workers are making their own decisions regarding work (Braunfeld v. Brown: Braunfeld wanted to be able to work on Sundays but chose not to because of his religion; and Sherbert v. Verner: was denied unemployment because she chose not to work on Saturdays due to her religion). These people have been offered their job back and they still are choosing not to accept it. That is their doing. Not everyone can be accommodated, and it would probably be better if there were no exceptions (that religion was not prioritized over nonreligion).

Do you think Cargill Meat Solutions is violating the Muslim workers free exercise of religion?


Sarah A said...

I have to disagree with you based on the ruling in the Sherbert v Verner case. In that case, Sherbert was given the right to receive unemployment because denying her unemployment was an unnecessary burden on her right to free exercise. In the same way, companies should be required to allow Muslims to pray. The breaks they are provided are not large enough an inconvenience to have them count as a downfall for the company. It should not matter how much the company has or has not done for its employees- in my opinion, that attitude is treating free of practice of a minority religion as luxury instead of a right of a citizen.

Alex Puleo said...

I agree with Sarah. These Muslim employees should continue to be allowed to have their prayer times at work; these short moments of prayer, while they do occur several times a day, do not take much time, thus, they cannot take much away from the company's production. Disallowing these Muslim employees to pray during work is infringing upon their right to free exercise.

Sedona Boyatzis said...

I agree with the previous comments. Unless the company can prove with a financial statement or other document some sort of loss of revenue or assets, these Muslim employees should still be permitted to pray during work. The prayer time cannot possibly cut enough into their work time for the company to prohibit this practice. Regardless of their goodwill in hiring Muslims for over a decade and helping them obtain pay through work, the company needs to also recognize the importance of prayer to their employees, whether they are Muslim or any other religion.

Liz S. said...

As a private company I believe that Cargill Meat Solutions should be able to structure the schedule of its workers however it likes. I think that Cargill had already been going above and beyond what was necessary in allowing for a prayer time for Muslim workers considering many other companies did not allow this freedom. While everyone has a right to belief, they do not have a right to a certain job. Many Muslims probably chose to work at Cargill because of its prayer time, and just as they chose to work at Cargill they can choose to leave if they feel like they are not getting enough time to fulfill their religious obligations. If Cargill feels like it cannot keep up with its work schedule because the prayer breaks are too long, they can change the time allocated. I believe that intent here is important. Cargill is not cutting these breaks out of religious hatred- it is clear that for years Cargill has been very supportive of the Muslim community. Rather, Cargill was acting for strict business and financial reasons. I dont think that Cargill was violating the Muslim workers free exercise of religion.

Lucy Fishell said...

Although the points you make are valid I still think that they should still be able to pray. I find it very hard to believe that a ten minute prayer time really infringes on the efficiency of the work place that much. By taking away prayer times this company is adding an unnecessary burden to the life of Muslim workers at their facilities. Further, I believe by not letting them pray they are going against their Muslim employees' First Amendment rights to Free Exercise which companies, regardless of whether they are privately or publicly owned, should have to follow.

Kiriko Masek said...

I agree that the Muslim employees should be allowed to take time out of their work day to pray. I do understand the company's point of view that they have tried to accommodate the Muslim worker's needs and that they just cannot grant more time because of a strict work schedule. I do not necessarily think that Cargill is being discriminatory towards this religion, I think it truly is based off of keeping a rigid work schedule. However, as Lucy said, I also can't imagine that these short breaks truly make a significant difference to the quality of work being done. I think that due to the Free Exercise clause, these workers should have the right to take time out of their work day to pray.