Somali workers settle discrimination suit with Gold'n Plump

Up to 100 current and former Muslim employees will receive a total of $365,000 under a settlement with St. Cloud-based Gold'n Plump.

Former and current employees of the company alleged religious discrimination at Gold'n Plump's processing plants in Cold Spring and Arcadia, Wis. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took up the case in 2006.

Among the settlement agreements, Gold'n Plump will add a 10-minute break to the second half of a shift. The company's employment agency cannot force employees to sign a form acknowledging that they may be required to handle pork.

"We entered into the settlement agreement in order to gain more predictability for our business and minimize disruptions for our employees moving forward," said Gold'n Plump CEO Mike Helgeson.

Mohamoud Mohamed, a Somali advocate representing the employees, says all parties involved are pleased with the outcome.

"This is a step forward, and it shows us that this system is helping us to work in an environment that accepts our culture," Mohamed said.

The settlement also outlines a clear right for the company to discipline employees who don't follow break schedules outside of emergencies.

The EEOC estimates that 40 to 100 workers will qualify for the payments.

A federal court is expected to review any objections and give a final approval to the settlement early next year.

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