Dozens of Muslim employees at a Wisconsin manufacturing company claim that they were forced to quit this week, after the company changed its prayer-on-the-job policy to one that prevents them from participating in their daily prayers to Mecca.
WBAY-TV reported that before Thursday, Somali Muslims employed by Ariens Manufacturing were allowed to leave the producing line twice a shift in order to participate in two of the five daily prayers required by the Islamic faith.
Ariens, which is based out of Brillion, WI, primarily manufactures snow blowers and riding mowers:
The new policy, as told to the station by a company spokesman, only allows the employees:
…to pray during scheduled breaks in designated prayer rooms. Our manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.”
The dozens of employees affected by the policy allege that praying only during a meal break goes against their religion. Masjid Imam Hasan Abdi, an employee from Green Bay, told the station:
“If someone tells you, ‘You pray on your break,’ and the break time is not the prayer time? It will be impossible to pray.”
Added former Ariens equipment painter, who held out his unemployment packet as he spoke to WBAY:
“We pray by the time. So they say, ‘If you don’t pray at the break time,’ they give us this [unemployment] paper to just leave.”
According to the company’s spokesman, the policy change impacts 53 of the company’s workers, with the majority of them opting to leave the company as a result of the new company.
The spokesman added that the company “put a considerable amount of effort” into finding a solution that would work for both sides, which included meeting with members of their Somalian employee group.
Dan Ariens, the company’s chairman and CEO, also wrote in an open letter posted to Twitter that reads, in part:
“We continue to be open to any of the employees returning to work under the new policy…
We respect their faith, we respect the work they have done at Ariens, and we respect their decision regardless of their choice to return to work or not.”
Per US law established by the the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission on religious tolerance in the workplace, “an employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer.”
The Council for Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) is also calling on Ariens to reverse its policy, per a Tweet sent on Saturday.