Nearly two dozen Muslim Somali-Americans are filing discrimination charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity against hardware maker AmesburyTruth and Doherty Staffing Solutions saying they were denied a place to pray at the Owatonna, Minn., manufacturing plant and lost their jobs for trying to practice their religion.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is leading the case on behalf of 21 former workers who were terminated in May and June 2015. EEOC complaints are not made public at the time of their filing.
According to the council, which is part of the nation’s largest Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group, the employees were told that if they could not comply with the plant’s break schedule or could not wait until their shifts were over to pray, they could not continue working there.
Some employees were fired for “violating the bathroom policy” by spilling water on the floor, according to the group.
Followers of Islam pray five times each day — at daybreak, midday, afternoon, sunset and at night. Before prayer, Muslims are required to wash their faces, hands and feet with clean water, which normally is performed in a restroom sink.
AmesburyTruth Marketing Director Kevin Anez declined to comment on the case because it was a pending legal matter, but issued a statement saying the company did nothing wrong.
“AmesburyTruth complies with all local, state and federal workplace laws. We adamantly deny any wrongdoing related to the pending EEOC charge.”
Representatives from Doherty Staffing, an Edina employment firm that placed some of the former workers, did not immediately return requests for comment.
The Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) has scheduled a news conference to discuss the filing at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Some of the fired employees will appear at the event, according to CAIR-MN.
AmesburyTruth was formed after a 2013 merger between Massachusetts-based Amesbury and Truth Hardware, a company whose roots date back to 1914 as a blacksmith shop in Ellendale, Minn.
AmesburyTruth is headquartered in Edina and makes hardware for doors and windows, weatherstrips and extrusions. The company has about 2,000 employees at 11 locations around the country.
The Owatonna plant employs about 800 employees and specializes in making widows, hinges, locks and other hardware used in casement windows.
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