Entries in Islam (2)


Muslim Ex-Whole Foods Employee Sues Company for Discrimination

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Muslim man formerly employed at a Whole Foods Market in Philadelphia is suing the company, claiming he was mistreated for going on a pilgrimage to Mecca and for praying at work during his breaks.

Glenn Mack Jr., 24, worked at the Philadelphia store for about two years and, said his lawyer, loved his job. In the fall of 2010, he made a vacation request to take 18 days off—2.5 months before his time off was to start. Whole Foods requires two week's notice for time off.

Mack's plan was to go to Saudi Arabia and make a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.

"When [Mack's supervisor] discovered [Mack] was going to Mecca for his pilgrimage, that's when things started to change," said Mack's attorney, Amara Chaudhry, the civil rights director at the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "He was told his job would not be guaranteed upon his return."

In a complaint filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Mack claimed his supervisor "had previously been heard making Islamaphobic comments," according to Chaudhry, and Mack said he was given a difficult ultimatum.

"His supervisor apparently said to him, 'You can choose. It's either your job or your religion,'" Chaudhry said.

Mack chose his religion and made his pilgrimage.

When he returned to Whole Foods, he was demoted from full-time to part-time status, and he said his co-workers treated him differently.

"People started to interfere with him while he was praying," Chaudhry said. "He had a secluded area away from customers where he would go during breaks to pray." Eventually, Mack resorted to praying outside next to a dumpster.

Mack complained to human resources and was restored to full-time status but was fired about three months later. Chaudhry said he was fired "allegedly for attendance reasons," but he had not received any warning or notification before Whole Foods ended his employment.

"[Mack] had been with the company since 2008 and had actually received many accolades," Chaudhry said. "He had been an exemplary employee by all accounts."

Whole Foods would not comment on Mack's case specifically, but released the following statement from Whole Foods spokeswoman Robin Rehrield:

"While we don't give out details about current or former team members, we can say that we deny such allegations. We value and celebrate diversity, and we have a zero-tolerance discrimination policy," as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mack's EEOC complaint has been pending since March 2011.

This is the second time in recent months that Whole Foods has been at the center of a religous-fueled controversy. In August, the company was criticized for directing a marketing campaign at Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan and then taking it back.

While many celebrated Whole Foods' decision to recognize and celebrate the beliefs and customs of its Muslim customers, some anti-Muslim bloggers accused the grocery chain of "Islamo-pandering." But the real trouble for the company came when the Houston press obtained an internal email suggesting that some of the stores should downplay any mention of Ramadan, in light of the criticism.

Mack has been disappointed and hurt by the conduct at his store, but he hopes to return to Whole Foods.

"He wants his job back," Chaudhry said. "He loves Whole Foods as a company and wants to make his career there." Mack had previously worked at Whole Foods stores in New Jersey and Georgia and had been recruited to work at the Philadelphia store.

Through his suit, Mack is seeking immediate reinstatement of his job, monetary damages for his losses related to the termination of his employment and mandatory training for managers and staff on "relevant and applicable anti-discriminatory laws, but also culture and diversity training," Chaudhry said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Muslim Workers Suspended Over Prayer Breaks

PRNewsFoto/The Hertz Corporation(SEATTLE) -- Muslim shuttle bus drivers at Seattle-Tacoma airport in Washington have been suspended by their employer, Hertz, for not clocking out when taking prayer breaks throughout their shifts.

Thirty-four drivers have been suspended since last Friday, when managers stood outside the Muslim prayer room and warned entering workers that they would be suspended if they didn't clock out before praying, according to a spokesman from the Teamsters union Local 117, which represents the workers. The union alleges that Hertz singled out the employees based on religion -- a charge that Hertz vehemently denies.

"It is common practice that if you're taking mini-breaks, if you have a lull in your work and go get a cup of tea or smoke a cigarette, two or three minute breaks throughout the day, you don't have to clock out," said Tracey Thompson, secretary and treasurer of the union. "Individuals take breaks, go across the street to Starbucks to get a cup of coffee during intermittent breaks, and this wasn't focused on anybody doing anything else but praying. They made it about prayer."

Rich Broome, a senior vice president at Hertz, said that the issue is not at all about religion, but about employees abusing the prayer breaks well beyond the agreed-upon four- or five-minute breaks.

"The breaks were being used for prayers but typically extended past the time necessary to complete prayer obligations," Broome said. "To be fair to all the employees that work there, we implemented this clock-in, clock-out rule to ensure that the employees were able to pray and ensure that they return to work in timely fashion."

Broome said the decision to implement the policy was a joint one between local managers and the corporate office. He noted that Hertz employs Muslim workers all over the world and allows for prayers every day.

"This idea that people were laid off for praying is not true," Broome said. "We have a lot of employees in Seattle and around the world that are Muslim who pray every day and who have not been suspended. This is a matter about following simple workplace rules and complying with those rules."

The union and Hertz met just a year ago to hammer out contract negotiations for the shuttle drivers, in which both parties agreed that two- to three-minute "mini breaks" would not require clocking in and clocking out. Now, the union alleges that Hertz has broken that agreement by suspending the employees, while Hertz claims that the offenders were taking breaks "orders of magnitude longer than mini-breaks."

The workers, who make less than $10 an hour without benefits or vacation pay, were suspended without pay beginning Sept. 30, and have not yet received notice of when they will go back to work, whether they are terminated or what disciplinary actions they might face, the union said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio