CAIR files federal lawsuit against Ariens Company over break policy

A view inside Ariens Company's manufacturing facility in Brillion, Aug. 11, 2015. (WLUK/Bill Miston)

BRILLION (WLUK) -- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a federal lawsuit against Ariens Company on behalf of Somali-Muslim workers over the company's break policy Wednesday.

Last year, Ariens began enforcing a break policy, allowing for two scheduled 10-minute breaks for employees after the company says unscheduled breaks impacted the company's work flow.

Prior to the new break policy, the lawsuit says Muslim employees were permitted to take short breaks to perform prayers while non-Muslim faith employees took the same amount of breaks to do other things such as smoking, making a phone call or getting a snack.

Muslim workers say the new short scheduled breaks did not allow them to pray at five prescribed times each day, generally at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and nighttime.

In the lawsuit, CAIR says its plaintiffs were either coerced to resign their employment or their employment was terminated after asking management to take short breaks to perform their obligatory prayers.

The plaintiffs are asking for their jobs back with short prayer breaks and payment for front and back pay and lost benefits.

In response to the lawsuit, Ariens released the following statement:

"We were surprised and disappointed to learn that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, located Washington D.C, elected filed a complaint alleging religious discrimination against Ariens Company. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated those allegations and dismissed CAIR’s EEOC complaint in September. In addition, Ariens continues to proudly employ and hire many individuals from the local Somali community. We believe that the EEOC’s dismissal decision was correct and that the we will prevail in this matter."

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