Changing Workforce

After prayer-time dispute, a flurry of discord at Wis. snowblower plant

By IndustryWeek

Feb 08, 2016

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Last May, right before the busy summer season, Wisconsin snowblower maker Ariens Co. used an employment agency to hire 53 Muslim line workers who are Somali immigrants.

The Somalis were good workers and things went fine until around August or September, when non-Muslim workers brought up that the Somali Muslim workers on the line were leaving the line to take prayer breaks.

The issue snowballed and in January, Ariens required that all employees stick to their scheduled breaks, with no additional breaks. After the announcement, all 53 of the Somali Muslim employees walked off the job in protest. Within two days, 39 had decided to return to work. Fourteen resigned.

Of those who returned, seven were fired this week when they continued to take unscheduled prayer breaks at work in accordance with their religion. The local Council on American-Islamic Relations said it is considering filing a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) because of the firings.

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For more background, see "New prayer rules at Wis. manufacturing plant leave dozens of workers unemployed"