American Muslim janitor fired for 'asking for time off to pray'

Penny Deams, a practicing Muslim since 15 years, complained she was fired after she refused to work till 10pm

News Desk October 20, 2017
Gwinnet County Public Schools. PHOTO: MAIL ONLINE.

A Muslim janitor was allegedly fired from a public school in Georgia for being discriminated against when she asked the principal for time off to pray.

Penny Deams, a practicing Muslim since 15 years, complained that she was fired by Gwinnett County Public Schools after she refused to work till 10pm as it interfered with her prayers at sundown. Deams, worked as a janitor at Ferguson Elementary School in Duluth, Georgia between June 2015 and September 2015.

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Deams’ legal team filed a case at the United District Court for the Northern District of Georgia earlier this week, demanding a jury trial to hear her discrimination claim.

According to court papers, Deams, who is from Snellville, Co Georgia, started working at the school between 2pm and 9pm. The account elaborates that on or around September 18, 2015, Ferguson Elementary school's principal Angelique Mitchell called Deams into a meeting where she instructed her to work until 10pm each evening.

Deams lodged a complaint with her direct supervisor, Kenny. She said that she would be unable to attend her local mosque for the sundown prayers as it closed at 10 pm. She requested 'an accommodation to allow for this daily sundown prayer'.

However, according to court documents, the principal ordered Deams back into her office and inquired about her religious activities. The affidavit states that Deams was asked how often a day she prayed and on which days.

In response, Deams went to the human resources office 'on or around September 21, to inquire about her rights'. Deams claims the HR department contacted the principal, after which she started notifying 'significant, retaliatory changes in the way she was treated by the Defendant's management team'.

According to the court papers, on or around September 22, Kenny asked Deams whether she 'had gone to the county about her religious rights'. Kenny told Deams that 'Principal Mitchell was mad' because she consulted the HR department.

Deams returned to the HR Department on or around September 22 or 23 and spoke to a Ms Spraggs who asked her about her prayer activity. 'Spraggs also requested a letter from Plaintiff's temple, on letter head, explaining what times Plaintiff needed to pray'.

The court documents indicate Deams 'did not deny this request, but mentioned that she would speak to an attorney regarding her rights'. Spraggs allegedly 'became agitated', pulled her personnel file and inspected her initial job application. She found out one of her references was no longer employed at Deams' former place of work in Dekalb County.

Spraggs blamed Deams of 'falsifying her job application' and placed her on suspension. Deams denied the allegation and said 'just because the person of reference no longer worked there did not mean she falsified the job application'.

The Director of Human Resources Staffing Monica Baptiste said she required Deams to furnish proof from Dekalb County about her previous job. According to the documents, Baptiste set a two-day deadline to return the evidence 'knowing full well the process for obtaining the requested form takes at least four to five days'.

According to the affidavit, Deams spoke immediately with Karr Davis at Dekalb County who said 'it would take several days to receive back the completed job verification form'. Deams returned to resume her job at the school on September 24 'but after working a short time, was told she should not be there, that she should immediately hand her keys over to Principal Mitchell, that she should leave the building, and that she should return to the Human Resources department' the following day.

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When she arrived at the HR department, Deams claims she was fired by Baptiste for the 'allegedly false job application' and because she showed up at work the following day. Deams' legal team claims she was 'engaged in the protected conduct of seeking a religious accommodation and/or opposing religious discrimination during her employment'.

The court documents state that the school 'knew that federal law prohibits discrimination, and willfully and/or recklessly disregarded' Deams' federally protected rights. Deams is claiming 'punitive and compensatory damages, back pay, prejudgment interest, reinstatement or front pay, attorney's fees, costs, and further relief in an amount to be determined at trial'.

This story originally appeared on the Mail Online.


Komal S | 6 years ago | Reply Looks like a incompetent employee using religion as a cover to protect herself.
Sid | 6 years ago | Reply People paid for work not for religious activities. People neglect work or other basic human respect when it comes to religion.
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