US company changes policy to cancel Muslim prayer breaks

Published: January 18, 2016
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New rules do not allow unscheduled breaks during production. PHOTO: FILE

New rules do not allow unscheduled breaks during production. PHOTO: FILE

A manufacturing plant in the US has changed its policy, preventing dozens of Muslim employees from offering their prayers during work hours.

Ariens Company, a Brillion-based maker of snow blowers and lawn mowers, used to allow the 53 Muslims who work at its headquarters plant to take two breaks a day — for five minutes at a time — to fit in their ritual prayers.

The policy however, was abruptly changed this month when the company announced it “does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production – even for prayer.”

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Angered Muslim employees said they could now only fit in daily prayers during their lunch breaks, which likely do not coincide with their prayer times.

Furious workers complained about the changed policy after which they said their bosses handed them unemployment papers.

“If someone tells you, ‘you pray on your break,’ and the break time is not the prayer time, it will be impossible to pray,” Masjid Imam Hasan Abdi, an employee said.

Adan Hurr, another employee said the rule is “absolute discrimination on its face.”

Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations agreed the new policy was discriminatory, and called for a compromise in a statement.

“These types of accommodation disputes can be resolved in a spirit of respect for constitutionally-protected religious rights and for the legitimate needs of both employees and employers,” the civil rights group said.

“We ask Ariens to revert to its previous policy allowing religious accommodation until a resolution can be reached that allows the workers to practice their faith and permits an efficient manufacturing process.”

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Despite a call from the rights group,  Ariens has not reverted its policy to its earlier version and representatives of the company have not returned any requests for comment.

The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission says employers do not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs if they “cause undue hardship” to the company, including a decrease of “workplace efficiency.” Muslim workers at the Brillion plant said other employees took over their tasks during their prayer breaks.

The company has several locations across the United States, as well as Norway, United Kingdom, Australia and Canada and employs over 1,000 people. However, it is unclear if the new policy applies to all of the branches.

It also remains unclear if the company intends to place similar restrictions on other religious practices. A post on the company’s website showed employees were treated to a Christmas party, complete with a meal, decorations and a “variety of ugly Christmas sweaters worn throughout the office.”

Many took to Twitter in protest of the new policy:

This article originally appeared on NY Daily News

Reader Comments (15)

  • Jawad U Rahman
    Jan 18, 2016 - 5:28PM

    This is what the San Bernadino and Paris killers have done. They have put the lives and livelihoods of millions of Muslims in the Western world at risk. The progress made in decades has been nullified.Recommend

  • Woz ahmed
    Jan 18, 2016 - 6:00PM

    Is it not the companies prerogative to offer breaks or not ?

    The issue really is they gave them and then took them away, most employers don’t give them and are now less likely to.Recommend

  • Reeba
    Jan 18, 2016 - 6:37PM

    If a sikh person wants to bring his kripan (dagger) to work as part of his religious obligation, should companies allow that? Religion should be private and to be practiced at home or religious places and not at work. These workers are bringing more harm to American muslims who are already facing a lot of harassment and other companies will hesitate to hire muslims.Recommend

  • buba
    Jan 18, 2016 - 7:22PM

    It also remains unclear if the company intends to place similar restrictions on other religious practices. A post on the company’s website showed employees were treated to a Christmas party, complete with a meal, decorations and a “variety of ugly Christmas sweaters worn throughout the office.”
    .
    Christmas is a national holiday in the West – it’s about Santa Claus and gift giving – it’s not about praying on the job. Many companies have a year end party – none of these parties is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.Recommend

  • curious2
    Jan 18, 2016 - 8:34PM

    In the USA you have “freedom of religion” but that doesn’t mean you get to impose your religious beliefs on your employer or fellow employees. Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Jan 18, 2016 - 9:34PM

    “Council on American-Islamic Relations” should be banned and for their own good, the American muslims should demand it and take it to the courts. The name Council on American-Islamic Relations itself suggests that there is a divide and rift between what is American and what is Islamic and that American values and Islamic values are at odds with each other.Recommend

  • HZR
    Jan 18, 2016 - 9:49PM

    The rest of the employees are willing to work and more importantly grateful that they have a job.Why should prayer and work mix.Join a company which allows both or choose prayers or job..Recommend

  • HZR
    Jan 18, 2016 - 9:51PM

    @buba:
    Their culture and their prerogative.Who are we to comment or much less complain.do not like it..welcome to leave to more friendly jobsRecommend

  • sad
    Jan 18, 2016 - 10:11PM

    All the more reason to eat a little less in your own country and persevere. These 53 employees did not become millionaire in US anyway. No point in wasting time there any further.Recommend

  • Aamir - Toronto
    Jan 18, 2016 - 10:30PM

    @Raj-USA……What about HAF (Hindu American Foundation), should this origination be banned too since its prime objective is to propagate hate and bigotry ????? Recommend

  • MK
    Jan 18, 2016 - 11:08PM

    @Reeba:

    In Canada Sikhs are allowed to carry Kirpans everywhere. However, there is a restriction on the size of Kirpan, and it must be blunt, and not sharp. Sikhs are also exempt form wearing Helmets while riding motorbikes in most provinces of Canada.

    Muslims can ask for prayer breaks, and holidays for Eid, similarly Sikhs and Hindus can take religious holidays. Canada is much more accommodative, and peaceful (far less crime rate than US). Respecting diversity creates harmony and understanding. Recommend

  • Mohammed Mirza
    Jan 19, 2016 - 2:01AM

    Everyone has a right to pray. What they are doing is not right. Those who think that praying is not part of religion.Recommend

  • Iqbal
    Jan 19, 2016 - 3:26AM

    @Aamir – Toronto:
    What is your source for saying that HAF’s prime objective is to propagate hate and bigotry? In case you did not know Indians are the most successful in USA in wealth terms.
    If you are living in Toronto you should know that and don’t be surprised if there is a knock on your door to pack your bags. Bigotry is the West will land you in serious trouble.Recommend

  • Damn
    Jan 20, 2016 - 12:45AM

    @Iqbal:
    I don’t think you understand sarcasm. Look it up.Recommend

  • Feb 4, 2016 - 7:08PM

    @sad:
    I agree in totality. No place like own place. Sad for two pennies we degrade our self and are insulted.Recommend

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