Muslim workers say they were fired for praying

DHL-worker-firedMark Curnutte, The Cincinnati Enquirer

CINCINNATI -- For more than three years, Mohamed Maow worked at DHL Global Mail in Hebron, Ky. He said he earned $11.57 an hour to sort mail and was paid time-and-a-half for overtime.

Maow, 27, a refugee from Somalia who came to the U.S. in 2007, said he never received any negative comments about his performance.

Yet on Oct. 9, after he said DHL supervisors reversed a policy of flexible break times that allowed Maow and fellow Somalis time to pray, he was among two dozen Muslims fired for stopping to say five-minute evening prayers required by their religious beliefs.

"It was a good job," said Maow, of Florence, who is now unemployed, struggling to pay bills and unable to send money to relatives in Africa, including two children living as refugees with their mother in Ethiopia.

Maow's is one of 11 complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – of an expected 24 total – that allege DHL Global Mail fired a group of Somali Muslims for exercising their legally protected religious rights.

The Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIRhas filed the EEOC complaints on behalf of the fired workers.

"We are requesting all available remedies allowed under Title VII (of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964) and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, including but not limited to: damages, reinstatement where appropriate and policy changes to ensure that all worker's civil rights are respected," said Booker Washington, CAIR staff attorney.

Federal civil rights law calls for "reasonable accommodation" to allow religious requirements to be followed by employees. Salaat, the second pillar of Islam, requires prayer to be performed at five specific times during the day.

Fired workers, three of them full-time employees of DHL and the other 21 part-time who help through two temporary service agencies, said they had been allowed to pray by previous supervisors. (Read more)