16 quit, say Warren employer denied Ramadan request

- A group of 16 Muslim workers have filed a complaint against their employer in Warren after they say they had to choose between their job and their religion.

The employees were machine operators at the Brose Jefferson facility in Warren, and have worked there for many years. They say, on May 30, their supervisors made them choose between their job and their religion over a Ramadan request.

During Ramadan, strict fasting is observed by Muslims from sunrise to sunset.

So, earlier in May, the workers requested they be allowed to take their meal break after sundown at 9 p.m., instead of the usual 7 p.m. break time during the duration of Ramadan. This year, the holy month of Ramadan was celebrated by Muslims worldwide from May 27 to June 25. 

The workers were all told their requests would not be accomodated.

"In that meeting, their employer pressed them to choose between their religion and their jobs. In response, and in solidarity, the 16 Muslim workers handed-in their work badges and involuntarily resigned," a press release states from civil rights law firm Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers. The law firm is representing the 16 workers.

The workers say in past years, Brose Jefferson allowed its Muslim production workers to take a later break during Ramadan, and say that performance and productivity weren't affected.

Workers perform their duties at workstation cells -- not on a production line -- and were able to make-up any loss in production in the previous years by working through their regularly scheduled 30-minute meal break during Ramadan, the law firm says.

The workers have filed a complaint against Brose with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and their attorneys say Brose has violated the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Title VII of the federal civil rights act, which makes it unlawful to refuse an employee’s request for accommodation due to their genuinely-held religious beliefs, unless it would cause the company an undue burden.

“These employees sought a simple, minor accommodation to allow a different meal time for the 21 days they would have worked during Ramadan. As it had done in the past, Brose could have easily permitted this without experiencing any sort of undue burden. We don’t know exactly why, but the company decided to break the law this year,” said attorney Beth Rivers. 

Brose is a global automotive supplier of window regulators, door systems, power closure systems and other interior components. The family-owned company, based in Coburg, Germany, employs 24,700 at 58 locations worldwide. With 2016 revenues exceeding $7 billion, Brose is among the top 50 automotive suppliers in the world.

This is a developing story. Stay with FOX 2 for updates. 

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