Muslim leaders gather for a news conference at the Abubakar Islamic Center in Minneapolis, May 2. Somali Muslim workers at a Wisconsin factory have been engaged in a lengthy dispute with their employer over the right to take prayer breaks.

Muslims at Wisconsin factory demand extra paid time for daily prayer

The Faith

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a religious discrimination complaint on Tuesday, in an ongoing debate over prayer breaks between a Wisconsin manufacturing company and Muslim workers. 

Ariens Co., which manufactures snow blowers and lawnmowers at a plant outside Green Bay, Wis., fired seven of its Muslim employees in January, and another 14 resigned, after the company told Muslim workers they should stop taking an extra break for prayer, Laura Putre reported for Industry Week.

The prayer break dispute has reached its fifth month without resolution and highlights the challenges of balancing religious accommodation with work schedules, especially in a multicultural setting. 

The company had hired the workers, Somali immigrants from Green Bay, several months earlier and accommodated them with both prayer rooms and a bus service to help with the 40-minute commute. A dispute arose in January after the non-Muslim workers complained the Somali workers were taking extra breaks for prayer time, sometimes without communicating with supervisors. The company told workers to stick to two 10-minute breaks, and 53 workers walked off the job in protest. 

Muslim beliefs require five daily prayers, spaced throughout the day, and many Muslims adjust their prayer times to accommodate work, school, or travel. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires employers to accommodate a religious practice such as prayer unless it causes the company “undue hardship” by decreasing “workplace efficiency.” 

This article continues at [Christian Science Monitor] Are employers required to grant prayer breaks to Muslim employees?

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