Could you imagine a college professor looking at his watch, telling the class to take a ten minute break, then rolling out a mat and praying? What about a first responder who interrupts a rescue because of the time of day? How about a cashier, a barber, a car salesman, or perhaps a doctor? Preposterous questions? Not hardly.
A man named Jama Mohamed decided to take a break from his shift at a meat packing plant without permission to engage in a ten-minute prayer at sunset. When discovered, Mohamed was taken to his supervisor and fired.
After he left the production line and began praying, Mohamed said, supervisors took his prayer mat, pulled him up by his collar and sent him crying to a lead supervisor, who fired him.
“I told him, ‘Look, I know I am in America and I know in America there is a freedom of religion for everybody to practice their religion. . . . And as long as you fulfill that â€” as long as you let me pray â€” I will always work for you,'” Mohamed, 28, said last week through an interpreter.
“And he said, ‘No, that’s not acceptable â€” your prayers are not acceptable here. You’re here to work, not pray.'”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a complaint that alleges that Swift & Company violated the worker’s civil rights (as well as other workers) by not allowing the worker to leave the production line and pray.
Donald Selzer, whom is a Minneapolis-based attorney for Swift, said that due to the high number of employees that require prayers, an accommodation simply cannot be made that wouldn’t also hamper production significantly. Selzer went on to elaborate that no workers were fired for praying on the job; workers were fired for leaving their post without permission.
By law, an employer in the United States has to make a reasonable accommodation to a worker’s religious beliefs. In this particular case, Swift offered to transfer the workers to an earlier shift so that they could engage in evening prayer on their own time. However, many workers prefer the second shift.
I don’t want to sound like an uncaring and insensitive jerk, but I don’t think Swift did anything wrong here. A worker walked off the production line without permission and was fired. We have a bunch of Somali immigrants who expect companies to just adapt to their (and their God’s) will and allow them unreasonable accommodations in order to exercise beliefs.
A reasonable accommodation was made by allowing workers to take an earlier shift. A reasonable accommodation is not halting production or allowing half the workforce to take off at sunset for a forty-five minute window. Would a reasonable accommodation consist of shifting the break time for everyone during sunset? Sure, but what about all of the other workers who could care less?
If Swift fired Muslim employees for being Muslim and praying (with permission), then Swift is wrong. If Swift could have but didn’t reasonably accommodate Muslim workers, then Swift is wrong. In both cases, the CAIR complaint has merit. However, if Swift did offer to reasonably accommodate a person based on his/her religious views but the worker refused, then that is all that Swift can really do.
At the same time, I don’t want Muslim workers imposing their religious beliefs on the rest of us. In this country, US Law is a slippery slope based on a little nuance called precedent. If the CAIR complaint wins out, there will be nothing to stop others from using this case as a basis for their own complaints. It may be a slippery slope, but it’s anything but unrealistic.
That’s my 500 Words.