The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and appliance manufacturer Electrolux announced that they have settled a religious accommodation charge filed against the company.
The charge of discrimination, filed by a Muslim production employee at Electrolux’s St. Cloud, Minn., plant on behalf of himself and the other Muslim employees, alleged that company management failed to discuss with them a religious accommodation that they requested. The employees had asked the company to allow them to break their fast shortly after sunset in accordance with the observation of Ramadan, the Islamic holiday that involves fasting from dawn to sunset every day for approximately one month annually around this time.
The issue arose for the Muslim employees for the first time this year as a result of a new health and safety policy introduced by Electrolux which prohibits food in production areas of the plant. According to the charge, the altered break times of the evening shift, as introduced by Electrolux in response to their request through the plant’s union, were not satisfactory.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as this poses no undue hardship to the employer.
Ramadan is scheduled to begin the week of August 9. In order to resolve the charge before the start of the Muslim holiday, Electrolux and the EEOC agreed to immediately engage in settlement discussions.
As a result of the settlement, Electrolux agreed to further modify the adjusted break time schedule during the entire month of Ramadan. The adjusted meal break schedule allows Muslim employees to pray and break their Ramadan fasts shortly after sunset in a safe environment, away from the production area. Electrolux will also provide training to its employees at the St. Cloud facility on the requirements related to religious accommodation under federal law. The company also agreed to report to the EEOC all future requests it receives for religious accommodations and how the requests were addressed by the company.
“We were involved in discussions with our union on altering our break schedule when we received notice of the charge,” said John Valence, Electrolux St. Cloud plant manager. “We immediately contacted the EEOC and we are pleased that they were able to assist us in resolving the issue well in advance of Ramadan. The further adjustment to our revised meal schedule accommodates the needs of our Muslim employees without compromising an important health and safety policy.”
Acting area director Julie Schmid of the EEOC’s Minneapolis Office said, “This expeditious settlement ensures that the Muslim employees at Electrolux will receive a religious accommodation in accordance with the law in time for Ramadan, and gives us the opportunity to remind employers in this region, where we have many Muslim employees, of their obligations in this area of law. We are pleased that Electrolux chose to work with us to reach this settlement quickly.”