When a Wisconsin manufacturer changed its previously liberal policy on Muslim prayer times, dozens of Somali Muslims claimed they were forced to walk out of their jobs.
Before Thursday of last week, Muslims employed at Ariens Manufacturing were permitted to leave the production line two times per shift to pray two of their daily prayers to Mecca, according to local ABC affiliate WBAY Channel 2 News.
A spokesman for the company said they were forced to change that policy, however. His statement said:
We are asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks in designated prayer rooms. Our manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.
We are open to any of the employees returning to work under the new policy or will look for openings in shifts that do not coincide with prayer time. We respect their faith, and we respect their decision regardless of their choice to return to work or not.
The policy change affects the 53 Somali Muslims employed at the facility who say that praying only during scheduled meal times goes against tenets of their faith.
“If someone tells you, ‘You pray on your break,’ and the break time is not the prayer time?” Green Bay Masjid Imam Hasan Abdi told the station, “It will be impossible to pray.”
The Muslim employees claim they had no option but to leave.
“We pray by the time,” former Ariens equipment painter Ibrahim Mehemmed told the station while displaying his unemployment packet. “So they say, ‘If you don’t pray at the break time,’ they give us this [unemployment] paper to just leave.”
“We are open to any of the employees returning to work under the new policy or will look for openings in shifts that do not coincide with prayer time,” read a statement from Ariens. “We respect their faith, and we respect their decision regardless of their choice to return to work or not.”
Ten of the 53 employees affected by the policy change have indicated that they’re willing to stay under the new rules.
The policy change is in compliance with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, which states that “an employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer… [such as] decreased efficiency.”
Watch the report via WBAY.
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