- A Milwaukee-area employer recently fired seven Muslim workers for taking unscheduled prayer breaks, and 14 other Muslims resigned in solidarity over the issue, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- The report says more than 50 Somali immigrant Muslims at the Ariens Company recently protested enforcement the company's policy of two 10-minute breaks per work shift, which does not allow accommodations for unscheduled prayer time.
- The Muslim employees wanted Ariens, which makes snowblowers and lawn mowers, to reinstitute a former rule that allowed them to leave their work stations at different times to pray as their faith requires. Ariens said it was sticking with a policy that does not accommodate unscheduled prayer breaks, despite allowing it in the past, according to the article.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based group that supports the Muslims at Ariens, told the Journal Sentinel it could file a complaint with the EEOC.
Religion in the workplace has quickly become a hot-button issue. According to federal law, employers must provide "reasonable accommodations" for religious practices, as long as they are not a hardship for employers. In this case, Ariens does offer prayer rooms for its workers on those regular, twice-per-shift, 10-minute breaks, but those breaks are not congruent with Muslim employees desires to pray at specific times, mainly dawn and dusk.
At this point, it remains to be seen how this will play out. But HR and employers can expect that when it comes to religion in the workplace, this type of decision will more often than not result in some sort of legal battle.