They say their former employer forced them to choose between keeping their jobs and keeping important tenets of their faith.
The men walked out of their jobs at Brose Jefferson in Warren over a dispute about meal break times during the holy month of Ramadan, according to Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers, the law firm representing the employees.
Muslims fast from food and water during the daylight hours of Ramadan, which began on May 26 this year. In Michigan, the fast is typically broken around 9 p.m.
The former employees worked a shift from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the manufacturing site, where they produced car door latches. At the beginning of Ramadan in May, the men reportedly sent an email asking managers to change their unpaid meal break from the standard 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., so that they could break their fast at the appropriate time.
Some of the Muslims involved in the dispute have been working for Brose Jefferson, a German company, for the past five years. According to the law firm, previous requests to adjust meal times during Ramadan were upheld.
But this year was different.
During an all-hands, pre-shift meeting in May, the plant’s production manager announced that the company would not be able to accommodate the Muslim workers’ request ― reportedly claiming that if they did so for one religion, they would have to accommodate other religions, the law firm said.
“The production manager informed us that we would need to choose our religion or our employment,” former machine operator Dulal Ali wrote in a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The 16 men decided to quit that same day. Their lawyers said the workers “involuntarily resigned.”
“For these devout Muslims, the only alternative was to leave the workplace en masse before the start of their shift that day,” Beth Rivers, co-counsel for the workers, said in a press statement.
McGehee said that the workers offered to take only a 20-minute break at 9 p.m. instead of the standard 30 break ― an offer that was reportedly rejected by the company.
The employees have filed a complaint against Brose Jefferson with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging they were discharged because of their religion and their national origin.
Depending on the outcome of the complaint, they hope to later file a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Next week, they’re planning to file a lawsuit under Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
Source: The Huffington Post