OMAHA, Neb. — Supervisors at a meatpacking plant have fired or harassed dozens of Somali Muslim employees for trying to pray at sunset, violating civil rights laws, the workers and their advocates say. The five- to 10-minute prayer, known as the maghrib, must be done within a 45-minute window around sunset, according to Muslim rules. The workers at the Swift & Co. plant in Grand Island say they quit, were fired or were verbally and physically harassed over the issue.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has drafted a complaint to be filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The petition compiles testimony from at least 44 workers.
Jama Mohamed, 28, said he was fired in June for leaving a production line to pray. Supervisors would not allow him a break, he said. “Some of them took the (prayer) mat from me; they started shouting, they started telling me to stop it, and one of them grabbed me by the collar of my shirt,” Mohamed said through an interpreter. Mohamed said he was then called to an office, where a supervisor fired him.