Written by Don Byrd

A trio of Amazon employees in Minnesota claims the company perpetuates a hostile work environment for Muslim employees, according to a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Making matters worse, the workers allege, after they participated in a protest of those conditions, management retaliated against them.

The complaint, which was filed by Muslim Advocates, requests an EEOC investigation into the company’s practices to determine whether Amazon violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The company, for its part, counters that it works hard to accommodate the religious observance needs of its employees. The workers, however, insist the employer fails to live up to the standard required by law.

Here is an excerpt from the complaint:

Although Amazon was aware of the religious accommodations required by its Muslim employees, it fostered a hostile environment where individuals feared taking time for obligatory prayer and were informed that they should quit if they wanted to observe Eid al-Fitr with their families. By not permitting its Muslim employees to observe fundamental tenets of their faith, and instead cultivating a culture of fear and retribution, Amazon fell far short of its obligations under Title VII.

Moreover, Title VII forbids an employer from subjecting its employees to a hostile work environment because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The increased harassment and hostile work environment faced by our clients, including false reports of misconduct, increased write-ups, filming, photographing, constructive discharge, and warnings of retaliation form a series of events designed to retaliate against our clients and other Muslim, Somali, and East African workers for their participation in the December 14, 2018 protest against discriminatory practices by Amazon.

The NYTimes reports on the complaint here, and includes a response by Amazon:

An Amazon spokeswoman, Brenda Alfred, said in a statement, “Diversity and inclusion is central to our business and company culture, and associates can pray whenever they choose.” However, she said, “We respect the privacy of employees and don’t discuss complaints publicly.” 

Ms. Alfred said the company had worked hard to accommodate the annual observance of Ramadan, when many Muslims fast during the day. Amazon consulted Muslim employees and trained managers on the holiday as well as on safety for fasting workers. Employees can trade shifts to work at night, and they held a potluck at the start of the holiday.

Stay tuned.