Yet another Islamic discrimination case is brewing. Glenn Mack Jr., a 24-year-old man who was terminated from his position at Whole Foods Markets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, earlier this year is claiming that he was harassed in the workplace due to his Muslim faith.
In addition to the harassment, he says that he was also fired because of his faith. A spokeswoman for Whole Foods denies these allegations. Kate Lowery says that details about current and former employees cannot be released "due to privacy," but that the allegations are unfounded.
"It's well known that Whole Foods values and celebrates diversity," she explains. "We have a zero-tolerance discrimination policy, zero tolerance." The Philadelphia Weekly notes, "Whole Foods was recently credited and thanked by [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] for being the first national supermarket chain with a Ramadan food promotion," a detail that adds intrigue to the entire debacle. In the past, the company has actually been criticized by conservatives for being too friendly toward Muslims:
According to CNN, the young man began working at the chain back in 2008. His lawyer, Amara Chaudhry, of the Philadelphia chapter of the CAIR, says that he was told he was being terminated in February of 2011 for absenteeism.
Mack, who claims he originally kept his Muslim faith a secret in the workplace after overhearing comments that bothered him, says that he was well-liked at his job. As a community service liaison, he had been chosen to run an employee assistance fund, which was designed to help staff members in need. He also alleges that he was selected to meet the company's co-founder and CEO, John Mackey.
According to Mack, he didn't start experiencing problems in the workplace until his supervisors learned that he would be taking vacation time for Hajj -- an Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. CNN describes this important religious event:
Hajj represents the fifth and final "pillar" of Islam. Every Muslim who is physically and financially capable is expected to make the pilgrimage once in their lifetime.
Mack had planned to take the 18-day trip back in November 2010 and he says that he let his supervisors know about his plans two months ahead of time. But before his vacation, he claims that his bosses told him that he needed to make a choice between taking his trip and keeping his job.
Regardless of the alleged choice presented, Mack chose to go on his trip. But when he returned, he said he was downgraded to a part-time employee and subsequently terminated.
But before being fired, he alleges he was followed around and watched closely by his supervisors. The scrutiny apparently compelled him to abandon his daily prayer in a storage room. To avoid the uncomfortable scrutiny, he began praying outdoors, near a dumpster. After being let go, he later decided to re-apply at a different location. The Weekly notes:
After the obligatory six month waiting period, Mack applied for another job with another Whole Foods location. He says the employer had set a start date, but then found out Mack had been banned from the company, nationwide, which is not standard for employees who’ve been terminated due to absence, which was the reason given to Mack.
A complaint was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission back in March and an amended complaint will soon follow. But no official lawsuit has been filed -- just the aforementioned complaint and a similar one with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.