Ariens Co. defends prayer policy for Muslim employees

Ariens Company in Brillion is seen, Aug. 11, 2015. (WLUK/Bill Miston)

Ariens is clarifying its policies after a report claimed Muslim employees were fired.

CEO Dan Ariens says Muslim employees left work Thursday after the company said it was going to start enforcing its break policy.

"Everyone is still, as we consider, an employee of Ariens Company - of these 53 affected employees," said Ariens.

He said the employees were taking unscheduled breaks to pray, which impacted the company's work flow.

"Let's say I'm on an assembly line with 10 people, and two of those people take an unscheduled break. Everything stops. Those two people might be using five minutes but the other eight are standing there waiting for those five minutes," Ariens explained.

He says non-Muslim employees raised concerns about fairness.

The company says employees can pray during their two scheduled breaks.

On Monday night, eight of the Muslim employees met with the Council on American Islamic Relations in Minneapolis.

The Executive Director of the group, Jaylani Hussein, says employees want to have more talks with company so all their needs are met.

"Maybe switch the schedules so that the breaks are actually in line to keep the majority of the people," he said.

"Muslims pray five times a day and the times are determine by the sun's rotation," explained Khurram Ahmad, president of the Muslim mosque in Oshkosh.

"To my knowledge, Ariens has gone above to accommodate the needs. It is also important that the employed respect that part and look for room within what the rule allows for and try to accommodate that," Ahmad said.

Muslim employees have until Jan. 25 to decide if they will return to work at Ariens.

Ariens says eight employees have plans to return to work and two said they would return but work on a new shift.

The company said some employees received unemployment information in case they decided not to return to work.

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