BRILLION, Wisc. — A prominent Islamic group says that it is considering filing a federal complaint after seven Muslim workers were fired from a manufacturing company after they failed to comply with its policy mandating that they only leave the production line to pray during their scheduled breaks.
As previously reported, the Wisconsin-based lawn mower and snow blower manufacturing company Ariens recently 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 that they are required to pray each day at specific times according to the Islamic religion.
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.
“We are asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks in our designated prayer rooms,” he wrote in a memo last month. “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.
“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.
Now, CAIR is threatening to file a federal discrimination complaint over the situation.
“The next logical step is filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Milwaukee Wisconsin for further investigations,” attorney Maha Sayed told reporters.
But Ariens opines that the group is making a mountain out of a molehill.
“We’ve had Muslims working for us for nine years. We still have 30 Muslims working for us today and to file a claim for seven who have made their own choice about continuing to pray off of the break cycle is to me, it’s disappointing,” Dan Ariens said.