The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will mediate a labor dispute between 22 Islamic workers and Dianne's Gourmet Desserts, a Le Center, Minn., subsidiary of H.J. Heinz Co.'s foodservice operations.

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Minneapolis, maintains that the Islamic workers were fired by the Le Center firm in December in a dispute over freedom to practice their religious beliefs, and were forcibly removed from the premises.

In a statement, Heinz called the council's statement "misleading." It said that allowances were made for Islamic workers to practice their faith and that "no Islamic employees were terminated from their jobs for requesting prayer accommodation and none were removed forcibly."

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