New prayer rules leave dozens of Muslims unemployed

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BRILLION, Wis. — Dozens of workers at a Wisconsin equipment manufacturer say they are now out of a job. The reason? The workers are Muslim, and they say the company changed its policy on allowing them to pray during working hours.

Just days ago, Somali Muslims employed by Ariens were allowed to leave the production line twice a shift to pray two of the five prayers their faith requires of them daily.

A new rule announced by the company Thursday says prayers now need to be done on lunch breaks only, something Muslims say goes against their practices.

Ariens released a statement, saying,

“We are asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks in our designated prayer rooms. Our manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.”

According to the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission,

“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.”

The company says it put a considerable amount of effort into finding a solution to the prayer dispute, talking with a Somalian employee group and other Muslims.

Ariens says the change affects 53 workers, and that 10 of those wish to stay on the job under the new policy.

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