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.”
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.”
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