Electrolux, Muslim workers settle dispute over Ramadan

Electrolux building
An Electrolux building in St. Cloud, Minn., as seen on July 22, 2010. The company is adjusting its meal schedule to accommodate Muslim employees during Ramadan.
MPR Photo/Ambar Espinoza

Electrolux has settled a religious accommodation complaint filed against the freezer manufacturer's St. Cloud plant.

Ahmed Said, a Muslim production employee, had filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging the company ignored requests to accommodate employees who celebrate Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting and prayer.

Under the terms of the settlement, employees will be able to break for prayer and fast shortly after sunset in a safe environment, away from the production area.

"The negotiation process was an amazing experience," Said stated. "I think it sends the message that we live in a country of laws. And whenever we disagree, when we go to the law, justice will be found."

An Electrolux spokesman said the company is pleased to have finalized an agreement before Ramadan begins next week.

Julie Schmid, the area office director of the EEOC in Minneapolis, helped mediate negotiations over scheduling. She said the company and its employees had struggled to resolve the conflict.

"They weren't discussing the possibilities," Schmid said. "They weren't engaged in a process that could enable them to come up with a mutually agreeable schedule change. This settlement allowed us to be a part of that negotiation, and come up with a schedule that both parties agreed with."

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibit employers from discriminating against individuals based on their religion.

The laws also require employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of their employees or prospective employees, unless an "undue hardship" would prevent them from doing so.

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