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Written by Don Byrd

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed a complaint with the EEOC on behalf of 15 Muslim former employees of a manufacturing company in Wisconsin claiming that a change in company policy forced the workers to choose between their employment and the prayer requirements of their faith.  

As the Christian Science Monitor reports, the complaint follows months of turbulent negotiations between Ariens Company and its employees who adhere to the Muslim practice of praying 5 times a day. Here is an excerpt from the story, providing a little background:

The company had hired the workers, Somali immigrants from Green Bay, several months earlier and accommodated them with both prayer rooms and a bus service to help with the 40-minute commute. A dispute arose in January after the non-Muslim workers complained the Somali workers were taking extra breaks for prayer time, sometimes without communicating with supervisors. The company told workers to stick to two 10-minute breaks, and 53 workers walked off the job in protest.

The company hired translators to help navigate the cultural and linguistic barriers in the prayer-break dispute. The workers offered to take their third break without pay, but the company was concerned about the cost of work stoppages. 

The EEOC will now investigate the charges and make a determination on whether to support a lawsuit for violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious practices unless doing so would create an “undue hardship” on the company.

Stay tuned.