Islamic Group Files Federal Complaint to Force Company to Accommodate Muslim Prayer in Break Policy

Photo Credit: M. Hussain
Photo Credit: M. Hussain

BRILLION, Wisc. — A prominent Islamic group has filed a federal religious discrimination complaint against a Wisconsin-based lawn mower and snow blower manufacturing company in alleging that it does not provide “reasonable accommodation” for Muslim employees in its break policy.

Under the Islamic religion, Muslims are required to pray five times a day at specific times. But as previously reported, earlier this year, Ariens enforced its policy to require employees to stay on the production line at all times, except for during their two 10-minute breaks. A co-worker could fill in for them during the time that they were gone.

Ariens officials previously did not stop Muslim workers from walking away from the production line a third time during their shift to offer up prayers, but when the company saw that the third break was costing Ariens money, it put its foot down.

“On the economic hardship to the Ariens company, we’ve demonstrated that it’s at least $1 million in line stoppage per line whenever someone takes an unscheduled break,” CEO Dan Ariens told television station WLUK in February.

“We are asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks in our designated prayer rooms,” he also wrote in a memo in January. “Our manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.”

However, Muslims state that the policy violates their faith because they will not be able to pray at the specific times required in Islam.

“If someone tells you, ‘You pray on your break,’ and the break time is not the prayer time, it will be impossible to pray,” Green Bay Masjid Imam Hasan Abdi explained to local television station WNCN.

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“These breaks that they were taking were very similar to the type of breaks that other employees were granted for using the bathroom, and normally they would leave one person at a time, which meant the operation would continue until that person returned,” also remarked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Jaylani Hussein.

According to reports, over 50 Ariens employees were affected by the decision to enforce the policy, and 32 opted to stay and comply with the rules. 14 decided to leave over the matter and seven others were reportedly fired due to noncompliance with the requirement.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) threatened in February to file a federal discrimination complaint, and this week, it followed through with its plans. It filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and also asserted an infringement of the National Labor Relations Act.

“Ariens has clearly engaged in an unlawful pattern of discriminatory conduct against charging parties because of their Islamic faith, Somali national origin and race, in violation of Title VII,” a letter to the EEOC reads. “The outright refusal to entertain, discuss, or offer any reasonable religious accommodation options that would resolve the alleged workplace conflict is unacceptable and inconsistent with prevailing Title VII law and EEOC guidelines.”

CAIR asserted that Ariens allows unscheduled breaks for non-religious purposes, and therefore “failed to demonstrate that accommodating and granting charging parties similar breaks for religious purposes would cause an undue hardship, beyond de minimis cost, to the operation of its business.”

Ariens says that it is disappointed in the filing of the complaint as it believes it has balanced company interests with the needs of religious employees.

“We have had Muslim employees working for the company for nine years,” Communications Manager Ann Stilp told Bloomberg News. “We currently have 27 Muslim employees who continue to work here, and the company continues to accommodate them with prayer rooms. We respect their faith and we respect the work they do.”

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  • TheBottomline4This

    Silly islam.
    Don’t get a job there then. You work for the employer and around their hours, they don’t work for you or around your religion.

  • james blue

    It is up to us to make sacrifices in life in order to live by our faith, not expect others to sacrifice in their lives to accommodate us. Employers should not be forced by law to accommodate our faith, whatever faith that may be. If this means certain jobs are not suitable for us so be it.
    It’s nice when employers do make accommodations, but they shouldn’t be forced to.

    A self employed Christian wedding photographer should be able to refuse to service gay weddings, but if if the Christian photographer worked for a company that does cater to gay weddings he should do the gig or seek a different employer. His employer should not be forced by law to accommodate his faith.

    These Muslims should stay on line under the same rules as everyone else of find alternative employment.

    • TheBottomline4This

      islam is patient and is slowly building. They will try to push this through…hope they don’t win. They shouldn’t have took the job KNOWING it did not provide 5 freaking breaks for their prayer time.

  • disqus_O2BUmbLecp

    The vote-pandering tactics of the liberal Blue States will come into play in this issue, ie whether the Muslim minority will be worth pandering to, in order to defeat the conservative Red States at the polls.
    …….IOW, if the liberal Blue States think that the Muslim-vote is worth pandering for, they will change the labor laws to favor the Muslims, ie without risking losing votes from liberal Jews n Christians.

    • disqus_O2BUmbLecp

      ht tp:/ /skchra.shrm.o rg/ blo g/2013/05/series-what-employers-can-learn-hertz-controversy-over-praye

  • disqus_O2BUmbLecp

    Shouldn’t it be “When in Rome, do what the Romans do”, ie follow local rules, laws n practices.? Isn’t it foolish for the US govt to require American companies to bend to the religious practices of some of their workers, thus reducing productivity n the economy.?

    The original intent of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was mainly to prohibit large employers from discriminating against workers based on their color, religion, gender n national origin during the hiring process, n not for the general operations of the company. Company rules n policies should apply equally to all hired workers. Imagine a religion that require 10 prayer times a day.
    ……. Seems, the liberal Blue States r trying to misinterpret the law, in order to quietly pander for the Muslim-vote.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    Presence of the Muslims is such a blessing in the godless secular nations. In a way, Christians should be untamed like they are. Thank God for continuing to save people through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    • Madmouse

      “In a way, Christians should refuse to be tamed of the atheists like the Muslims do”. – Christians don’t kill atheists, if that’s what you mean. Quit twisting words.

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Christians do not kill anyone for having mere ideologies or religions, since religious freedom is vital necessary for free conversion to Christianity. I mean, Christians must not submit to the atheists who demand people to live as if God does not exist. It’s been wrong all along. Everyone is safe with the Bible-literate Christians – the reason the USA was created by the Christians. All others kill innocent people for false reasons.

      • sandra-paquette-

        Thanks for translating that. I had a real problem with GKK statement. Trying to figure out what the heck she is actually saying. You are right Christians don’t kill nor do they demand to take over your country. etc.etc.

  • revelationman

    freedom of religion, most developed Western Nations have this in their various constitutions, they had no idea at the time, that Islam would be so dominate as today, now that part of our constitutions are being used against us, Islam unlike other faiths, is a threat to Christianity , we in the West have been very complacent with our beliefs, the snowball effect is Islam will dominate , control, this is the mandate of Islam on Muslims to spread Islam all over the world,

  • Gena B

    If the company allows multiple breaks for prayer, then they could not discriminate if others started demanding multiple breaks because that would be fair. What a mess.

    • sandra-paquette-

      What a mess, is right. But, this is what happens when they allow muslims all their rights. No other religion or nationality demand the take over like muslims.

  • sandra-paquette-

    If employers hires them, then they get what they deserve. You know what muslim are all about.