Muslim Employee Claims Discrimination Over Prayer Dispute

Part-time worker demands strict scheduling accommodations

Image Credits: Teovel Iradon / EyeEm / Getty.

A Muslim employee of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has filed a discrimination complaint alleging his requests for special scheduling to accommodate prayer and Ramadan observances were rejected.

The man, identified in the affidavit as a 40-year-old Bengali-American, claims his original request for religious accommodation was honored, but upon filing for an extension with new criteria, as well as additional exceptions for Ramadan, he was denied.

“Since May 4, 2019, I have been forced to choose between my religion and my ability to earn a living,” the man says. “Because I am observing my faith at work, my job is at risk.”

In his complaint, the part-time employee says he was initially granted a three-month period during which he was allowed to use his lunch break to leave for Friday prayers and then return to work.

When it came time to re-apply for the religious accommodation, the Islamic calendar then called for prayer hours that fell outside of his normal lunch break.

The second accommodation request, which included a change in the hours of his Friday lunch break, was reportedly denied.

“We cannot [accommodate] your request to leave during the day on Friday’s for your religious observance,” a DMV representative allegedly wrote. “An essential function of your position is to work certain hours. Altering your schedule poses an undue hardship on the operational needs of the office.”

Additionally, the man requested a specific, constricted schedule for the month of Ramadan (11:30am to 3:15pm), which was also reportedly denied.

“I believe I am being punished and retaliated against because I am observing my religious practice of attending congregational prayer,” he says.

“I believe the foregoing actions were and are based on improper discrimination on the basis of my religion and/or national origin. These actions have caused and will cause great damage to me, including, but not limited to lost compensation and benefits, damaged to my career and reputation; and substantial emotional distress.”

The man says that since May, he has “forced to leave the workplace every Friday at 1:30pm to attend congregational prayers,” but is prohibited from clocking back in.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is representing the man, announced the filing of the complaint on Monday.

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