CAIRO - A leading American Muslim advocacy group has filed federal complaints against an Ohioan DHL company accusing it of firing 18 Muslims for praying at work in a clear breach of freedom of religious practices rights guaranteed by state and federal laws.
They wouldn't even discuss any type of accommodation, Jennifer Nimer, legal director for the Ohio branch of the Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Columbia Dispatch.
They said, You pray at a scheduled break, and that's it,' he added.
Earlier this week, Nimer filed the complaint against Exel Inc., a subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL, for firing 18 Muslim workers from e Westerville-based logistics company.
The workers, of Somali origin, have prayed twice during work hours for about 10 minutes each time.
The Muslim employees worked at a warehouse on the Northeast Side, and allowing them to adjust their two daily breaks to fit prayer times would not have caused the company undue hardship.
The complaint also accused the company of denying requests to adjust break times to accommodate prayer or to allow employees to take unpaid prayer breaks to perform prayers.
Though previous managers had made modifications to the break schedule, new supervisors refused to do so.
It's not accommodating when they were aware the break times made them miss the prayer, Nimer said.
However, the company officials denied any wrongdoing, stating that Exel is dedicated to ensuring its workplaces are sensitive and respectful to employees' religious and ethnic practices.
The allegations ... neither conform nor align with the way we do business in any of our sites, Exel officials said in an earlier statement.
Rather, Exel goes to great lengths to ensure employees' religious practices are understood and, as appropriate, accommodated.
In both policy and practice, Exel has established a culture in which discrimination of any kind is not tolerated.
Despite the company's denial, the complainers confirmed that the incident is not the first for the company.
This company has a history of discriminating against Muslims, especially Muslims of Somali origin, Nimer said.
This type of blatant discrimination cannot be tolerated.
The workers said they were initially denied access to the company's human-resources department.
One manager is also accused of telling employees to pray in a restroom so they wouldn't be seen, the council said.
The council said the firing of some workers prompted a Feb. 8 meeting at which a manager told other employees that policies would not be changed.
More employees subsequently were fired when they insisted they had a right to accommodations, the council said.
Nimer said the allegations come on the heels of complaints filed last year by two other fired Exel employees, both Muslim.
One man said he was fired after requesting the continuance of prior accommodations that allowed him to attend mandatory Friday prayer services while another said he was fired for praying during a break.
The United States is home of a Muslim minority of between six to eight million.
Muslims pray five times a day, with each prayer made of a series of postures and movements, each set of which is called a rakah.
The five prayer times are divided all through the day which starts with fajr prayer at dawn.
Then prayer times are divided from the time the sun declines, which is mid-day, until the darkening of the night, includes Zuhr (noon prayer), `Asr (evening prayer), Maghrib (sunset prayer) and `Ishaa' (night prayer).
State and federal laws require employers to accommodate the religious practices of workers unless they unduly burden the company.