Dozens of Muslims are outraged after a Wisconsin power plant threatened to fire them if they took two five minute breaks daily in order to pray.
The policy change affects 53 workers. Ten of those employees have indicated they wish to stay in their current positions under the new policy but the rest have either chosen to leave or are planning to.
The Brillion-based company changed the rule on Thursday. Until then, Muslim employees were allowed to leave the production line twice a shift to pray.
But Ariens is now asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks. A company representative told WBAY-TV the ‘manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.’
On Saturday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations called on Ariens to allow Muslim workers to pray at work using the previous policy until the dispute is resolved.
A spokesperson for the Brillion-based equipment manufacturer said the following in a statement: ‘We are asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks in designated prayer rooms. Our manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.’
It is not in the Muslim tradition, however, to pray during meal times.
‘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.
Ibrahim Mehemmed said he was handed an unemployment slip when he prayed during his usual time.
‘We pray by the time. So they say, “If you don’t pray at the break time,” they give us this [unemployment] paper to just leave.’
Worker Adan Hurr was shocked by the company’s radical change in policy.
‘I have been 35 years in America and I’ve never heard of a company that is not allowing its employees to pray five minutes. It is absolutely discrimination on its face,’ said Adan Hurr.
‘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.
A spokesperson for the company said that they met with Somalian employees in order to suit their needs.
The company ‘put a considerable amount of effort into finding a solution that allows for employees of Muslim faith to pray during work hours.’
‘We met with members of our Somalian employee group to better understand their needs and consulted with local representatives of Muslim faith,’ a spokesperson wrote.
A law written by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission says that the company does not have the right to tamper with employees’ beliefs.
‘An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer… [such as] decreased efficiency.’
This article originally appeared on the Daily Mail.