Wednesday marked the beginning of Ramadan, the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar when Muslims observe the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammed by fasting from dawn until dusk. This year, Ramadan coincides with the longest days of the year. How are Muslim employees protected during Ramadan and how can we support them during this month?
For one, Muslim employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations under Title VII and state antidiscrimination laws. In EEOC v. Alamo Rent-A-Car, 432 F.Supp.2d 1006 (D. Ariz. 2006), a Muslim worker won her religious accommodation claim when she requested to wear her head covering during the holy month and Alamo refused to allow her to wear it while speaking with customers. The court found that Alamo’s claim of “undue hardship”—that it would have to deviate from its “carefully cultivated image”—was unfounded. Employees may also seek time off or modified schedules that allow them to start and finish their days earlier, and employers must carefully respond to these requests.
Muslim employees who request accommodations, or otherwise oppose employer practices that they believe discriminate against workers for their faith, must not suffer retaliation as a result. In Ali v. Electrolux, a case here in Minnesota, a production worker signed a petition in protest to his employer’s new policy prohibiting eating and drinking on the production floor. 2014 WL 2945794 (D. Minn. June 30, 2014). During Ramadan, the policy prevented Muslim workers from being able to break their fast at the specific times required by Islamic tradition. After the petition, the worker was openly ridiculed by coworkers, threatened by supervisors, and eventually fired. The court found denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment and allowed the worker’s retaliation claim to go to trial.
Although not necessarily required by law, coworkers and employers should educate themselves on Ramadan and support their Muslim colleagues. The Tanenbaum Center for Religious Understanding out of New York City has published a Fact Sheet with helpful information on how to be inclusive and supportive during Ramadan. It offers facts and tips on the holiday, including how to greet people who are observing the holiday. Ramadan Mubarak (Blessed Ramadan), Muslim friends.