Islamic advocacy group files lawsuit against Wisconsin manufacturer

Posted at 11:15 PM, Dec 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-08 00:20:55-05

An Islamic advocacy group is suing a Brillion manufacturer.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, also known as CAIR, filed a federal lawsuit against Ariens Company Wednesday in Green Bay.

The attorney for CAIR told NBC26 Muslim Somali employees were fired for exercising their faith, making the employees choose between religious beliefs and employment.

19 people are listed on the lawsuit. They are all Muslim and of Somali national origin.

"Federal law provides employees with the rights of reasonable accommodations to exercise their faith in the work place," said Senior Litigation Attorney, Gadeir Abbas.

An Ariens Company representative said they have had a policy of two 10-minute breaks per shift in place for years and that has not changed.

However, Abbas said employees were originally allowed to pray and take breaks, but that changed.

The lawsuit says the Ariens Company management assured employees when hired, they would provide religious accomodations allowing them to pray during shifts, but around December 2015 a meeting was held with only Somali Muslim employees.  The lawsuit said they were told at the meeting these accommodations would be revoked effective January 25, 2016.  It states employees told management the breaks did not coincide with prayer time.

Abbas said this resulted in many being terminated for praying at work.

 "Muslims pray 5 times a day and depending upon when dawn is, when sunset is," said Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas.  "That affects where the prayer falls throughout the day."

Ariens Company released a statement Thursday:
"We were surprised and disappointed to learn that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, located in Washington D.C., filed a complaint alleging religious discrimination against Ariens Company. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated those allegations and dismissed CAIR's EEOC complaint in September. In addition, Ariens continues to proudly employ and hire many individuals from the local Somali community. We believe that the EEOC's dismissal decision was correct and that we will prevail in this matter.”

Abbas said they're asking for their jobs and lost wages.