The Columbus, Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Columbus) announced today that it has filed discrimination complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Exel, Inc., a subsidiary of DHL, on behalf of 18 Muslim employees who were allegedly fired for praying in the workplace.
The Muslim employees reported to CAIR-Columbus that they had asked the company several times for prayer accommodations, including adjusting break times or taking their prayer breaks without pay, but the company repeatedly denied any of the accommodations proposed by the employees. One manager allegedly told the employees they should pray in the bathroom so they wouldn’t be seen praying. Other managers told them to “obey the rules or get fired.”
In their complaints, the employees say they made an effort to resolve the dispute by trying to speak to human resources, but that Exel managers and supervisors repeatedly refused to allow them access to the human resources department.
Managers reportedly began terminating Muslim employees when they saw them praying at work. On February 8, 2013 the general manager called a meeting in which he reportedly told a large group of Muslim employees, many of whom had been working for the company for years, that Exel would not change its policies and that the company could not provide a religious accommodation. He ultimately terminated the entire group when they insisted they had a right to religious accommodation.
Both state and federal law requires employers to accommodate the religious practices of their employees unless it creates an undue burden on the company.
“This company has a history of discriminating against Muslims, especially Muslims of Somali origin,” said CAIR-Ohio Legal Director Jennifer Nimer. “This is not the first time a group of Muslim employees has been fired from this company for requesting a prayer accommodation. This type of blatant discrimination cannot be tolerated.”
According to the EEOC, 21 percent of religious discrimination complaints in 2011 involved bias against Muslim workers.