Taking breaks at work can be challenging, especially when you work in a production line environment. So what do you do if you are Muslim and need to observe the five daily prayers while on the job? Recent news has highlighted instances where Muslim employees faced tensions from their employer when trying to fit prayer into their work day, feared discrimination or even left a job that would not accommodate their prayer times. Here are rights you have under federal law, specifically Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Your employer must accommodate prayer breaks
As daily prayer during specific time windows is a religious practice, this is covered under the law requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations for religious practices and requires your employer to allow you time to complete your prayer. This does not require your employer to give you paid breaks in order to complete your prayer.
Adjust your prayer break times based on the season
Taking prayer breaks can be complicated by the fact that prayer times are not the same every day; they change daily based on the lunar calendar. The window of time you have to complete the prayer may expand or shrink based on the season. This could change the number of prayers you might need to complete during the work day. It is a good idea to explain this to your supervisor, so there are no surprises.
Give you time to attend Friday prayer (Jummah prayer)
If you are required to work on Fridays, which is the holy prayer day for Muslims, your employer must allow flexibility to allow you to attend Friday prayer, which is typically held in the afternoon. The exact time varies depending on which congregation location you attend, but it is a good idea to research mosques close to work that may offer Friday prayers at a time that would work best with your work schedule. Some Muslims have successfully asked for longer lunch breaks on Fridays in order to attend the prayer during their lunch break, and return to work. Again, the employer is not required to pay you for these breaks.
Ensure a work environment free of hostility and discrimination
People at work might start to notice you taking prayer breaks and learn that you are Muslim. It is illegal for your colleagues or supervisor to insult you, harass you or discriminate against you based on the fact that you are Muslim. Protection from discrimination includes fairness in your employment status: your supervisor is not allowed to consider your religion when making decisions on promotions, hiring or firing. If someone is making unwelcome remarks about you and your religion, or you feel you have been subject to religious discrimination at work, take note of the comments and keep a record of the incidents, including when they took place and who was involved. Noting any witnesses would also help you if you report the incident to your employer's human resources, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or if you decide to hire a lawyer to take your case.