Saturday, August 07, 2010

Religion: Electrolux agrees to Muslims' Ramadan rights

The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today announced that Swedish appliance manufacturer Electrolux has agreed to grant legally-mandated religious accommodation to Muslim employees at its St. Cloud, Minn., plant during the upcoming Ramadan fast.

In July, CAIR-MN assisted employees in filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against Electrolux after the company threatened Muslim workers with termination if they were caught breaking their Ramadan fast on the production floor. CAIR-MN represented the employees in the mediation process.

SEE: Electrolux Denies Minn. Muslims Ramadan Rights

Under the new agreement, the company will shift employees' 30-minute break to coincide with sunset during the month of Ramadan. This will allow the Muslim employees to break their fast immediately after sunset, pray their sunset prayer and eat their Ramadan meal off the production floor.

Additionally, all managers, supervisors, human resources personnel, and labor relations personnel at the St. Cloud plant will receive two hours of training on religious accommodation requirements under federal law. The EEOC will monitor compliance with the agreement for not less than 3 years.

SEE: EEOC, Electrolux settle complaint over Ramadan accommodations

The majority of the 300-400 employees who work the evening shift at Electrolux are Muslim.

"We applaud the courage of Muslim employees who asserted their legally-mandated rights and we appreciate the EEOC's swift handling of this complaint and its commitment to protecting the religious practices of employees," said CAIR-MN Civil Rights Director Taneeza Islam.

Ms. Islam noted that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act protect the right of any employee with a bona fide religious belief to have accommodation in the workplace as long as that accommodation does not cause "undue hardship" for the employer.

On Wednesday, August 4, CAIR-MN hosted its second annual "Positive Interactions" employer workshop to address issues of religious accommodation in the workplace. Almost 20 managers from Twin Cities metro-area companies attended the workshop to better understand the legal obligation of religious accommodation and to learn about customs and practices of Muslim employees.

CAIR offers a booklet, called "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," to help employers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the workplace.

Ramadan, which will begin on or about August 10, is the month on the Islamic lunar calendar during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and other sensual pleasures from break of dawn to sunset. Muslims break the fast each day with food and drink immediately after sunset.