MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – The United Parcel Service (UPS) and an Edina staffing agency are being sued for allegedly banning Muslims from praying during work hours.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) filed the lawsuit against UPS and Doherty Staffing Solutions citing a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Abdullahi Dahir and Abdifatah Hassan, the two Muslim men represented in the lawsuit, were fired in June 2014 from the Mendota Heights UPS warehouse facility.
The lawsuit calls the observance of the five daily Islamic prayers as “a mandatory and essential part of the life of Muslims.” Prior to June 2014, Muslim employees at the Mendota Heights facility were able to observe the five daily prayers outside of breaks and during work hours. Company policy allowed Muslim employees to inform a supervisor when he or she needed to pray, and someone would fill in for the few minutes the prayer lasted. However, this changed when a new operations manager was hired.
The lawsuit claims the new operations manager, hired by Doherty, barred Muslim employees from praying during work hours, and would not allow the employees to set their own breaks to coincide with the prayer times. The new manager also allegedly said any employee found praying during a bathroom break would be sent home.
Without a way to observe the daily prayers at work, Dahir and Hassan believed they were left with no choice but to go home, resulting in their termination.
“There is no lawful reason for any company to stop Muslims from praying when previously that company had allowed such prayers in a manner that did not impact the workplace,” CAIR-MN’s civil rights director Amir Malik said in a statement. “We believe that UPS Mail Innovations and Doherty Staffing Solutions withdrew this reasonable accommodation pretextually, in order to get rid of the Muslim employees.”
In a statement, UPS said they “thoroughly investigated” the situation with Doherty, and have found no evidence to support the allegations.
“UPS respects religious differences and has specific protocols for reviewing requested accommodations to resolve conflicts between beliefs and working conditions,” UPS said in the statement. “The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also found no cause for claims against UPS and dismissed the allegations.”
The suit seeks an unspecified amount of damages, including lost compensation, for the alleged discrimination.