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Do Muslims have the right to take prayer breaks at work?

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2020 | workplace discrimination

When you took a job opportunity in California’s booming technology industry as a software or web developer, you were excited and had a positive attitude. Your religion or need for daily prayer breaks didn’t cross your mind as becoming an issue in your job.

As a Muslim, you assumed your employer wouldn’t mind taking short prayer breaks throughout the day to perform your five daily prayer obligations. You assumed your employer knew that throughout the year, prayer times change based on when the sun rises and when the sun sets. You thought if you’re getting your work done and doing a good job, they wouldn’t have an issue.

Signs of discrimination

Unfortunately, religious discrimination still happens in the workplace. You started to feel something was off when you were five minutes late to a meeting because with shorter days in the winter, the meeting was scheduled at the same time as the deadline for your afternoon prayer.

Your manager interrogated you, and that’s when you started to feel like you were being treated differently. You were no longer asked to be involved in special projects, and you started to feel you were not given the opportunity to grow in your career.

You did your best to incorporate your prayers into your already scheduled 15-minute breaks. You explained to your employer it only takes about 15 minutes to do the required washing before prayer and to perform the actual prayer. But you did not feel heard.

Your Rights

As a Muslim employee, you have the right to a religious accommodation to take prayer breaks.

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 entitles all employees, regardless of religion, to reasonable religious accommodation by their employers
  • Employers may argue that prayer breaks are not “reasonable”
  • Employers may not want to allow the accommodation due to work schedules and expectations.
  • An employer refusing to accommodate prayer breaks may be breaking the law

Nationwide issue

All around the country, Muslim employees face this type of discrimination at work. You are not alone. In 2016, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a discrimination complaint against a Wisconsin manufacturing company that employs many Muslim workers, due to prayer breaks.

There are many examples of this type of discrimination around the country. Muslims already may face discrimination out in society, in daily life and interactions – it can be heartbreaking to experience the same discrimination where you’d least expect it – at work. If you feel you are experiencing discrimination at work based on your religion, there are steps you can take to defend your rights.