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Somali women walk off Midwest job after new dress code announced

A Midwest dessert company recently changed their dress code. After the announcement was made, 10 women walked off of the job and another 20 men joined them. The reason they chose to leave was because they said that the new dress code constituted religious discrimination, and they refused to participate in it.

The 10 women were made up of a group of Somali workers of the Islamic religion. The women were asked to change out of their burqas -- a full-length garment worn in practice of their faith. When the women were told to find alternative work clothing, they walked out in protest. When the second shift of employees came to work that day, more walked off after the same request was made.

The employer claims that the change in the dress code was made for safety reasons after one woman's burqa became stuck in one of the machines. Employees say that safety is a concern of theirs as well, but that there is a better solution to the problem than a complete prohibition of the religious attire.

This is not the first time allegations of this kind have been made against the food company. Nearly two years ago 25 Islamic workers lost their jobs while the company was operating under a different name. In that case, the break schedule was changed in a way that it affected their prayer schedule.

While those employees were all reinstated, it was only after a claim was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Officials reported that the first case filed over back pay and harassment is nearing settlement.

Source: Faribault Daily News, "CAIR getting involved in Faribault Islamic workers' dispute," Rebecca Rodenborg, June 5, 2012

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