A Wisconsin-based manufacturer says it has fired seven Muslim employees for taking unscheduled prayer breaks,
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that as a result, 14 other employees have resigned from Ariens Co., which makes snowblowers and lawnmowers south of Green Bay.
More than 50 Somali immigrant Muslims recently protested the company's enforcement of a policy of two 10-minute breaks per work shift—without accommodations for unscheduled prayer time, the Sentinel said. The employees hoped the firm would continue a previous, more lenient practice of allowing them to leave their work stations at different times—such as at dawn and sunset—to pray as their faith requires of them, the paper said.
Ariens said it was sticking with a policy that does not accommodate special prayer breaks, despite having bent the rules earlier, the Sentinel said.
Thirty-two other Muslim employees have chosen to stay with the company and work within the break policy, Ariens said.
Still, the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Sentinel it was considering filing an equal-opportunity lawsuit against the company. USA Today reported the new, more strict policy dates from "the mid-1980s."
Ariens recently ended up with more than 50 Somali workers who'd migrated from Minnesota looking for more work. But by the time 35 to 40 of the employees began to work and take regular prayer breaks, the company said it hit a "critical mass" and decided to enforce the old policy, USA Today said.
Prayer breaks aren't supposed to disrupt factory production lines, and thousands of employers provide prayer-break accommodations, Othman Atta, executive director of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee and an attorney, told the Journal-Sentinel.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.