Ariens Manufacturing in Brillion, Wisconsin is making headlines after changing their policy pertaining to prayer-on-the-job last Thursday, which has since lead to outrage among the companys Muslim staff.
While previously Ariens Manufacturing allowed their 53 Somali Muslim employees to step away from the production line twice a shift for prayer, the company has now released a new policy which cites understandable efficiency concerns and asks employees to instead use their scheduled break times for the expression of faith.
Seems like a reasonable request on the part of Ariens right? Well, not to the dozens of Somali Muslim employees who have subsequently walked off the job after the policy came into effect.
Outraged over the new policy, former Ariens staff members are stating that prayer during meal breaks goes against their religion and naturally, they are crying out discrimination despite the fact that current federal law sides with Ariens.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions website under the section on pertaining to Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship, an employer does not have to accommodate an employees religious belief if it would cause undue hardship to the employer.
Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship
An employer does not have to accommodate an employees religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.
Please note that the law specifically addresses decreased workplace efficiency and if the accommodation of religious practices for an employee places burdensome work on another…
Before this week, Somali Muslims employed by Ariens were allowed to leave the production line twice a shift to pray two of the five prayers their faith requires of them daily. They prayed five minutes at a time, designating their specific duties to colleagues.
Boom… Note the line marked in bold? These prayer breaks are in fact decreasing efficiency and placing additional workload on other workers. In other words, Ariens Manufacturing has done nothing wrong.
Dan Ariens, the President and CEO of Ariens Manufacturing released the following statement on the matter:
I understand that the headline and story featured on WBAY appears to be alarming news about Ariens Company. It is alarming to me as well. Unfortunately this headline does not tell our story very well. As many of you know, my family has operated manufacturing businesses in Northeast Wisconsin for more than 80 years. You also may know that we have only been successful by operating under a set of Core Values. We will: Be Honest, Be Fair, Keep our Commitments, Respect the Individual and Encourage Intellectual Curiosity. We work very hard as a team to accommodate all employees with our vision of Passionate People who Astound our Customers. In our manufacturing plants we work as a team to build the best power equipment product. Like any accommodation, we put a considerable amount of time into finding a solution that would work for both the employees and the company. Our staff is committed to providing a great place to work for all employees and have met with members of our Somalian employee group to better understand their needs. We consulted with local representatives who are of Muslim faith to help provide sustainable solutions. We want to be clear that no one was terminated here. We are asking employees to use two scheduled breaks for religious observation, and are offering designated prayer rooms. Additionally, we are also offering to look for positions on other shifts that might better accommodate prayer obligations. This change affected 53 employees. More than ten of the employees have contacted Ariens Company to say they will return to work under the new policy. And we welcome their return. We continue to be open to any of the employees returning to work under the new policy and I have sent a letter to each of them re-stating that offer. Let me be clear: we respect their faith, we respect the work they have done at Ariens, and we respect their decision regardless of their choice to return to work or not. Headlines do not make a story. If you want more details, please let me know.
If someone tells you, You pray on your break, and the break time is not the prayer time? It will be impossible to pray, said Green Bay Masjid Imam Hasan Abdi.
Former Ariens equipment painter Ibrahim Mehemmed held out his unemployment packet and told us, We pray by the time. So they say, If you dont pray at the break time, they give us this [unemployment] paper to just leave.
Allow me to pray so that I can go back to work and do what I love to do, which is working for Ariens. But we are not allowed to do that. Yesterday what happened was just a travesty, he said.
Imam said he has concerns for the future of the Muslim population in Green Bay. If they got fired now, theres no way theyll get to stay in Green Bay. Theyll have to move to find work, he said.
Allow you to pray Mehemmed?!? What the heck do you think Ariens provides designated prayer rooms for? Give me a break.