Company fires Muslim workers in prayer dispute

From KTRK-TV Houston

A civil liberties group said it plans to file federal discrimination and harassment complaints after a Wisconsin company fired seven Muslim employees for violating a company break policy that doesn't provide extra time for prayer.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR announced the complaint against Ariens on Monday in Green Bay.

"The next logical step is filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for further investigations," said CAIR civil rights attorney Maha Sayed.

Ariens Co. terminated the workers in a dispute that began last month when the company started to enforce its break policy which allows two 10-minute breaks per work shift.

Two of the seven employees who were fired

Two of the seven employees who were fired

Ariens spokeswoman Ann Stilp told ABC News, of the 53 employees involved, 32 have abided with the policy, 14 resigned and seven were terminated because they continued to take unscheduled breaks for prayer. The news of the terminations was first reported by WLUK-TV in Green Bay.

"We have 30 employees who are Muslim who are making our break time work for their pray time and there are some that have decided that it's their decision that it doesn't work for them and I respect that decision," said Ariens CEO, Dan Ariens.

The company, which is based in Brillion, initially allowed the Muslim employees to leave their work stations a third time to accommodate prayers, but said it began disrupting production at the lawn mower and snowblower company.

CAIR said its main goal is to get employees their jobs back.

"These breaks that they were taking were very similar to the type of breaks that other employees were granted for using the bathroom and normally they would leave one person at a time which meant the operation would continue until that person returned," said Jaylani Hussein who is the Executive Director of CAIR.

CEO Dan Ariens said last month that the best solution was to schedule break time and stay within the policy of two breaks, which the company says isn't new and is discussed during employee orientation.

"We've had Muslims working for us for nine years, we still have 30 Muslims working for us today and to file a claim for 7 who have made their own choice about continuing to pray off of the break cycle is to me, it's disappointing," said Ariens.

But if the company previously allowed prayer breaks, Hussein said, it can't legally end such accommodations.

After a complaint is filed with the EEOC, the process could include mediation, an investigation, or the case could be dismissed.

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