Manufacturer stands by policy on Muslim prayer breaks

MILWAUKEE — An American-Islamic civil liberties group is asking a Wisconsin manufacturer to back away from a policy that doesn’t allow an extra break for prayer for Muslim employees.

Ariens Co., however, said Tuesday that it can handle the matter internally and that it’s not interested in negotiating through the Council for America-Islamic Relations.

The friction comes after 53 workers left their jobs in protest after the company decided to enforce a policy of two 10-minute breaks per work shift. The workers, all of whom are of Somali descent, who joined the company last summer through an employment services contractor in Green Bay. Ariens — which is based in Brillion, about 90 miles north of Milwaukee — initially had allowed the newly hired Muslim employees to leave their work stations a third time to accommodate Muslim prayers.