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Cargill settles bias suit with Muslim workers, agrees to pay $1.5M

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Cargill is paying a $1.5 million to settle claims of religious discrimination by Muslim workers in Colorado. 

The charges involve nearly 140 Somali-American employees at a beef processing plant in Fort Morgan.

In December 2015, employees at the plant walked off the job after they were allegedly barred from praying during breaks.

An investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found there was probable cause that the workers were harassed, denied their requests for prayer breaks and fired from their jobs.

"We are gratified with the settlement reached for the 138 former Cargill employees that we represented in this proceeding and applaud the company for its ongoing efforts to consistently grant prayer requests to people of all faiths based on its longstanding policy and values," Qusair Mohamedbhai of Denver law firm Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC said in a prepared statement. "We appreciate the collaborative efforts of Cargill and Cargill's commitment to continue to communicate its longstanding prayer accommodation practices."

Wayzata-based Cargill said it did not accept the basis of the complaints, but it decided to settle out of court to avoid a lengthy legal battle.

Cargill said it will continue to conduct mandatory training for all management and hourly personnel at its Colorado facility to explain that employees have the right to be free from discrimination based on their race, or national origin and to be accommodated for their sincerely held religious beliefs.

"Providing our employees with religious accommodation is an important part of engaging and supporting our employees, and our policy has remained consistent for more than 10 years,"  Brian Sikes, president of Cargill Meat Solutions, said in a press release.