About 100 Somali workers set up a picket line Friday at the Teleplan
Wireless Co. in Chanhassen, protesting conditions they said include ethnic
slurs, religious insensitivity and hiring discrimination.

Almost twice that number reportedly walked off their jobs on Monday. Some
have returned to work. The rest rejected a company offer to settle on
Wednesday and said they will begin to consider contacting labor unions this

The company, which assembles and refurbishes cell phones, released a
statement Friday saying “the door is still open” to workers who want to
return. However, like any business serving customers, it continued, “we
will have to begin to replace workers who choose not to come back.”

The conflict is part of a growing trend as the numbers of Somali, Hmong,
Latino and even Bosnian immigrants bring greater diversity to Minnesota
workplaces. The state’s Department of Human Rights has fielded complaints
about Muslim prayer schedules and days-long Asian bereavement periods, for
example. Employers have struggled with foreign-language translations of
company handbooks and dietary restrictions at company functions, said
Janice Downing, CEO of Fredrickson Human Resources Consulting in Minneapolis.

A list of complaints

Teleplan’s Somali workers have sought help from the Somali Justice Advocacy
Center in St. Paul.

“We are concerned about the basic rights of these people,” said Omar Jamal,
the center’s director. “All they’re asking is to be treated decently and
with respect…


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