Muslim employees are outraged by a policy change that was recently implemented by Ariens Manufacturing, an equipment manufacturer based in Brillion, Wisconsin, as employees can now only leave to pray during meal breaks.
According to WBAY-TV, until last Thursday, Muslims employed by the company were permitted to leave the production line two times during their shifts to pray, as a total of five prayers per day are required by the Islamic faith.
Muslim employees would dole their duties out to fellow employees during these prayer times, which lasted five minutes.
But Ariens Manufacturing now wants Muslims to pray during meal breaks instead — something that Islamic adherents are pushing back against.
While the new policy impacts 53 workers, just 10 of them said they will stay in their current role under the new regulations, according to WBAY-TV.
"We are asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks in designated prayer rooms," the company said in a statement. "Our manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production."
Muslims employees said that praying only during meal times goes against their faith due to the fact that this doesn't align with the proper times for invocations, with some saying that they were handed unemployment papers if they refused to comply. Ibrahim Mehemmed, a former equipment painter, is one former worker who said that he was forced to leave.
"We pray by the time," he told WBAY-TV. "So they say, ‘If you don’t pray at the break time,’ they give us this [unemployment] paper to just leave."
Ariens Manufacturing has said, though, that employees like Mehemmed are welcome to come back to work if they abide by the policy, or if they find shifts that don't coincide with their prayer times.
"We respect their faith, and we respect their decision regardless of their choice to return to work or not," the company said in a statement.
Read more about the controversy here.