MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A group of Muslim workers claim they were fired by a New Brighton tortilla factory for refusing to wear uniforms rather than their traditional loose-fitting skirts and scarves, according to a civil liberties group.
Six Somali women claim they were ordered by a manager to wear pants and shirts they considered immodest by Islamic standards, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Tuesday. The women have filed a religious discrimination complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
''For these women, wearing tight-fitting pants is like being naked,'' said Valerie Shirley, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota chapter of CAIR. ''It's simply not an option.''
Gruma Corporation, the Irving, Texas-based parent company of Mission Foods, released a written statement Tuesday denying that any employees were terminated or disciplined at the New Brighton plant. However, the company made clear the six women have been relieved of their responsibilities for the time being, and may ultimately lose their jobs if they don't wear uniforms.
''Should these employees choose to adhere to the current Mission Foods uniform policy, they may return to their positions with the company,'' the company statement said. ''However, these positions will need to be filled as soon as possible and cannot be held indefinitely.''
CAIR called on Mission Foods to reinstate the women, though the group declined to disclose the names of the women or make them available for interviews Tuesday.
Last year, some Muslim cashiers at Target Corp. stores in Minnesota were shifted to other positions after refusing to scan pork products because doing so would violate their religious beliefs. And in 2005, a group of 26 workers were either fired or suspended by an Arden Hills electronics manufacturer for violating the company's prayer rules, which set limits on the times they could break for prayers.
The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 says employers must accommodate workers' religious beliefs, so long as the requests are ''reasonable'' and do not create ''undue hardship'' for the company.
At the Mission Foods plant, the Muslim workers had already made some accommodations, Shirley said. They had agreed to wear coats that were more loose-fitting than their scarves, but the company took them away before imposing a new dress code that involved trousers and shirts, she said.