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Prayer dispute leads to nearly 200 jobs lost at Cargill plant

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Nearly 200 workers at a Colorado Cargill plant are out of a job after a dispute over prayer time.

The Fort Morgan Times reports the workers at the meat processing plant, many of whom are Somali, claim management stopped letting them take five-minute prayer breaks (which their religion requires) this past month.

On Tuesday, after a walkout by more than 100 employees last week, about 190 workers were fired, 9 News reports. The company says its policy is, three straight days off work without calling in puts your job at risk – and that's what led to the terminations.

Jaylani Hussein, who heads the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told KSTP for some reason things seemed to change on Dec. 18, and workers were told to "go home if they wanted to pray."

Cargill, which is headquartered in Wayzata, Minnesota, argues the situation has been "mischaracterized" – the company says it makes a reasonable effort to accommodate religious practices, though it isn't guaranteed every day depending on business, the Denver Post reports.

They've offered a "reflection room" at the plant since 2009, the Denver Post had earlier reported, where workers could wash and pray.

CAIR said in a news release on Wednesday it will "review all legal options to protect the workers' rights."

In 2013, Al-Jazeera America ran a photo gallery about the sudden influx of Somalis in Fort Morgan, many drawn there by work at the Cargill plant. The plant employs about 2,100, and one-third or so are Somali, the news organization reported.

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