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Muslim workplace discrimination rises in Colorado

Despite how long the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act has been present, many employers continue to commit discriminatory behavior towards workers of different genders, ages, races and religions. Religion has become a particularly touchy subject because some workers use their beliefs to potentially justify their actions against someone with a different creed or sexual orientation.

One religious group that has certainly not been exempt from unfair treatment are the Muslims. There have been multiple reports in the last decade of employers not adhering to their religious practices or associating them with terrorists. Unfortunately, Colorado has seen an increase in this toxic behavior in the last decade and has denied them working privileges solely based on their religious beliefs. It is important for Muslim workers to be aware of this rise in behavior and what they can do in response.

No prayer breaks at work

Colorado meatpacker plants that are part of agribusiness Cargill Meat Solutions recently faced controversy for denying Muslim employees short prayer breaks that are a part of their religion. Their policy change resulted in the firing of 138 Somali-American Muslim workers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigated the matter and found that the workers faced harassment and discrimination for protesting the policy change.

The incident occurred at the Denver and Fort Morgan plants. The meatpacker eventually agreed to pay $1.5 million to all the fired employees and to begin training employers in implementing prayer breaks into their Muslim workers’ schedules.

An increase in biased behavior

While the previous example demonstrates how employers struggle to allow religious practices at work, some refuse Muslims altogether. Recently, an owner of a Denver chicken restaurant closed down one of his corner stores and found an Indian restaurant ran by Muslim cooks to replace it. When the owner contacted his landlord to sublet the restaurant, the landlord refused the request and said she wanted an American person. She called Muslims “extremely dangerous” and associated them with bombs. The owner recorded the conversation and filed a discriminatory lawsuit against the landlord.

The article featuring this story also highlights that racial and religious discrimination complaints have significantly increased between 2014-15 and 2016-17. In 2014-15, there were 198 racial and 44 religious complaints. In 2016-17, the numbers respectively went up to 296 and 72.

What can be done?

These two examples of unfair treatment also demonstrate what you can do to combat prejudiced conduct. Try to gather evidence of their actions by keeping notes, finding a way to record their behavior or having a willing witness besides you when you encounter the employer. This documentation will prove especially useful in the courtroom.

You should also contact the EEOC and file a complaint with them so they can investigate the matter and enforce anti-discrimination laws. Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits employers from demonstrating discriminatory behavior towards their workers, so it is important to know that you can take action against your employer if they treat you unfairly for being Muslim.

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