Judge approves Gold’n Plump settlement with Muslim workers

The Minnesota Federal District Court has approved a settlement amongst
Gold’n Plump Poultry, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC) and private parties over prayer accommodation at the company’s
Cold Spring, Minn., and Arcadia, Wis., production plants.

The settlement brings closure to a class-action lawsuit and EEOC charges filed against the company in 2006.

Terms, which were agreed last November, include a financial
settlement and a change to a previous break schedule at the Cold Spring
and Arcadia facilities, the company said in a statement. (See Gold’n Plump workers to receive settlement in religious discrimination suit on Meatingplace.com, Nov. 11, 2009.)

As part of the settlement, Gold’n Plump will pay $720,000 for
class-action plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees and $215,000 to the EEOC,
which will distribute the funds amongst many different parties.

The agreement also includes a new break schedule that adds one
10-minute break in the second half of the shift and reduces the break
during the first half of the shift from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.
Employees wishing to take a break that coincides with prayer time must
work in an area of the plant called “Second Processing” or may request
a transfer to that area.

“We entered into the settlement agreement in order to gain more
predictability for our business and minimize disruptions for our
employees moving forward,” Gold’n Plump CEO Mike Helgeson said in a
statement. “The agreement covers all Cold Spring and Arcadia employees
through 2011.”

Helgeson explained that a key part of the settlement grants Gold’n
Plump the ability to discipline employees who leave their positions
outside of their break schedule for any reason other than for