Unscheduled prayer breaks for Muslims are now strictly forbidden at Ariens, an equipment company based in Brillion, Wisconsin, approximately 25 miles south from Green Bay.
The popular manufacturer of lawn mowers and snow blowers has recently revised its employee policies and procedures.
According to new guidelines revealed on Thursday, January 14, Muslim staff is no longer allowed to have unscheduled prayer breaks in order to complete 2 of their 5 daily rituals, collectively known as Salah.
Before these measures were adopted, followers of Islam were granted permission to perform 5-minute prayers twice per day, being replaced by other workers during those small breaks.
Now, unscheduled prayer breaks have been banned, and Muslim staff is only allowed to offer prayer during their regular lunch breaks.
In response to this, just 10 of the 53 Quran followers that are currently on Ariens’ payroll have declared that they will stay at their jobs in the future, while the rest are now considering taking their trade elsewhere.
The company has justified its newly adopted employee rules of conduct by claiming that in the manufacturing business taking unscheduled prayer breaks can greatly disrupt the production line and considerably lower productivity, resulting in”undue hardship”.
As representatives explain, the human resources department isn’t guilty in any way of Islamophobia or intolerance towards Allah’s followers.
On the contrary, it has remained extremely respectful, forthcoming and open to the idea of finding a more convenient solution for Ariens’ Muslim staff.
That is why talks and meetings were held with local Muslim leaders and with employee resource groups reuniting staff of Somali descent.
In order to accommodate the need to perform obligatory Salah prayers, executives have even considered introducing night shifts and other flexible hours, so that the set of prayers no longer has to be carried out during working hours.
For now, it appears that Ariens leaders are firm in their resolution to discontinue unscheduled prayer breaks, and have taken no steps to discourage employees wishing to leave the company citing this recently introduced ban.
This stern attitude has been deplored by Muslim staff such as Adan Hurr, who has condemned the ban as completely discriminatory and hostile.
Similarly, members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a non-profit organization aiming to support the Muslim community in the United States, have urged Ariens officials to at least postpone the interdiction until a more satisfying compromise can be reached.
According to Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson at this advocacy group, this workplace dispute should be tackled while taking into account the need to protect every individual’s religious freedom.
At the moment, given that Ariens hasn’t conclusively proven that unscheduled prayer breaks do indeed lower productivity or hamper business operations, the measure is actually illegal and abusive, breaking legislation adopted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Moreover, the newly established policy is deeply intrusive, since it encroaches on the Muslim staff’s ability to carry out compulsory daily rituals, which is why it shouldn’t be implemented.
Instead, a more broad-minded and tolerant approach should be preferred, so that Ariens can carry out its operations at full capacity, while keeping employee morale at optimal levels.
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