Demographers say that Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States. American Muslims are now found in all sectors of society. The growing Muslim population adds a new dimension to be considered by employers when dealing with issues of multiculturalism and diversity. The information contained in this booklet is designed to assist employers in formulating and implementing policies that will help create a culturally-sensitive workplace environment. It will also serve as a guide to religiously mandated practices of employees.

Glossary of Muslim Terms:
Eid(EED) – A day of festivity, major religious holiday.
Halal(Hah-LAAL) – Permissible by Islamic law
Hijab(Hee-JAB) – Clothing Muslim women wear in public. It is generally loose-fitting and includes a head covering.
Jum’ah(JOO-mah) – Friday congregational prayer, the Muslim weekly worship service.
Kufi(KOO-fee) – A cap sometimes worn by Muslim men.
Qu’ran(QUR-aan) – Islam’s scripture, sometimes spelled Koran.
Ramadan(RAHM-a-daan) – The month of fasting

Muslim practices, in legal terminology, bona fide religious beliefs, and those who practice them regard as compulsory religious duties. Observances such as prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, and religious celebrations are long held practices of the Muslim faith. Such expressions are protected by the following provisions in the Bill of Rights and and federal law:
. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which protects the free exercise of religion.
. Title VI of the 1964 which provides that an employer may not discriminate against a person because he/she adheres to a particular faith, and that employers must accommodate an employee’s religious practices unless doing so would cause undue hardship to the world.
Moreover, there are many state laws that contain similar provisions protecting religious rights. In the private sector, a growing number of corporations are modifying their rules and procedures to show sensitivity to the increasing number of Muslim employees and customers.
. The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act(Title 25, Section 1302) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of religion unless they can demonstrate that accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of an employer.

Across faith communities, religious practices have many similarities, although the details of time and procedure defining what a proper religious practice may differ from one religion to another. The goal of this booklet is to identify scheduling and procedural requirements to ensure the free practice of religion by members of the American Muslim community. The information contained in this guide outlines general Islamic beliefs and and practices. Individual application of these observances may vary.

Islam urges God consciousness in an individual’s life. To that end, Islam mandates that believers perform prayer five times each day.

1. Morning prayer may be offered from break-of-dawn until just before sunrise.
2. Noon prayer may be offered from just after midday until afternoon.
3. Afternoon prayer may be offered from late afternoon until just before sunrise.
4. Sunset prayer may be offered from sunset until darkness.
5. Night prayer may be offered through the night hours.

Before prayer, Muslims are required to wash their faces, hands and feet with clean water. This washing is normally performed in a restroom sink. During the act of worship, Muslims stand, bow, and touch the forehead to the ground. Worship may be performed in any quiet, dry, clean place. During the prayers, the worshipper will face towards Mecca(generally northeast in Mecca). Other workers should not walk in front or interrupt the worshipper during prayer. During prayer, the Muslim is fully engaged. He or she may not respond to a ringing telephone or conversation. Fellow employees should not take offense if the worshipper does not answer their call during the prayer. However in case of an emergency, the Muslim will respond to an announcement by stopping the prayer immediately.

The time it takes to perform the washing and the prayer is usually about 15 minutes. This enables the Muslim employee to pray during meal and/ or other break times. Employees who have flexibility in taking breaks may schedule them to fit their prayer times. For example:

. Employees working regular day hours may schedule their breaks to fit noon and afternoon prayer – depending on location – between noon and 5 PM.
. Retail employment shifts from 10 AM to 6 PM(or 11 AM to 8 PM) imply that Muslim store employees may need to perform noon, afternoon and sunset prayers in the workplace in some states, especially during winter.
. Night Shift workers may need to pray night and morning prayers on site. in other more controlled work environments, employers must work out a reasonable arrangement for those employees to pray within the prescribed time period.

Friday is the day for congregational worship, called Jum’ah. The prayer generally takes place at a mosque during the noontime prayer and includes an address or sermon, and lasts a total of 45 to 90 minutes. A Muslim employee should be able to compete Friday prayers during an extended lunch break. Any work missed may be made up by either staying later or coming in earlier, or through whatever arrangements are mutually satisfactory.
Islamic holy days and festivals follow the lunar calendar. Like the solar calendar, the lunar calendar has twelve months. However, a lunar month, which is marked by the appearance of a new crescent in the moon, may last only 29 days. A lunar year is about eleven days shorter than the solar year. This means that Islamic festivals occur about eleven days earlier each year. There are several days on the Islamic calendar with special religious significance.

Eid(Day of Festivity) is celebrated by Muslims twice a year. The first Eid is celebrated after the end of the month of Ramadan. The second Eid is celebrated beginning on the tenth day of the twelfth Islamic month. The festivals include congregational prayers, family visitations, and the exchange of gifts. Celebrating Eid requires that Muslims take one day off twice every year. There should be no undue penalty for this religious obligation.

The month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is the period in which Muslims are required to fast. Observing Ramadan means refraining from eating, drinking and smoking from break-of-dawn to sunset. Ramadan is a period of personal restraint and renewed focus on moral conduct. It is also a time to empathize with those who are less fortunate and to appreciate what one has. Fasting does not mean that Muslims cease to work.

An employee observing the fast will not be able to eat during typical lunch times. However, he or she will need to eat after sundown, and/or, for those working night shifts, before dawn. Mutually convenient adjustments should be made. For example, a work shift could be shortened by the length of the lunch break if the break is not taken. Islam provides relief for many of the burdens of travelers. A traveler is exempt from fasting during the month of Ramadan.

Pilgrimage plays a significant role in many faiths. In Islam, it is one of the five “pillars” of basic obligations, of the religion. Muslim adults are required to go on a pilgrimage to the city of Mecca at least once in their lifetime. Performing the rituals of the pilgrimage may last 5 days during the second week of the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. However, considerable variations exist in trip arrangements, and group travel may take 10-21 days. Muslim employees may choose to make pilgrimage using vacation time.
The Qu’ran, Islam’s revealed text, prohibits the consumption of alcohol, pork, and pork by product. Practicing Muslims are careful about the food they consume and about how it is prepared. Many practicing Muslims follow certain standards – called halal(permissible) – of slaughter and preparation of meat and poultry. Airline companies and other parties that serve food to Muslims may order these special items(mainly meats) from certified halal food providers. If this is not possible, employees should be given choices that meet Muslim dietary requirement(such as vegetables, eggs, milk, and fish).
Islam prescribes that both men and women behave and dress modestly. Muslims believe men and women should be valued and judged by their intelligence, skills, and contributions to the community, not by their physical attributes. There are a number of ways in which Muslim men and women express such teachings.

Men: Many Muslim men wear beards for religious reasons. Cleanliness is required by Islamic teachings. Should there be safety and health considerations, employers may require employees with beards to use proper covering such as hair nets or masks. Also, some Muslim men wear a small head covering. called a kufi.

Women: When in public, Muslim women wear loose-fitting, non-revealing clothing. Many Muslim women wear attire known as hijab. This attire, which may vary in style, usually includes covering the hair, neck, and body, except for the face and hands. Some Muslim women may wear a face veil.

Companies may ask that clothing be clean and neat. Businesses with designated uniforms may request that the Muslim worker’s attire adhere to certain requirements of fabric, color, and style that are consistent with corporate image. Employers may wish to modify dress code policies so that religiously-mandated attire is addressed as a diversity issue. For example, many corporations have a policy forbidding the wearing of “hats.” This rule may be amended to exempt items such as head scarves and skullcaps.

Shaking Hands: Some Muslims will be reluctant to shake the hand of an unrelated person of the opposite sex. This should not be taken as an insult, but as a sign of personal modesty.

Eye Contact: The Qu’ran teaches Muslim men and women to “lower their gaze” when communicating with unrelated persons of the opposite sex. In observing this teaching, many Muslims avoid sustained eye contact. This should not be taken as an insult or as an indication of an unwillingness to communicate.

Social/Work Events: Many Muslims are reluctant to take part in social gatherings celebrating religious holidays of other faiths or where alcohol is served. These employees should not be penalized for not participating in such functions. Such events should not be mixed with business. A Muslim employee should not be asked to serve or sell religiously offensive products, such as alcoholic beverages.

In 2009, Muslims made up less than two percent of the US population, but they accounted for twenty-five percent of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the EEOC.

Headscarves and Look Polices
Samantha Elauf, a young Muslim women, wore her headscarf to an employment interview with retailer Abercrombie and Fitch in 2008. Elauf never mentioned her religion, and the assistant manager conducted the interview did not ask. After the interview, however, the assistant manager asked the district manager about Elauf’s headscarf because she knew hats were not allowed. She had assumed the scarf was for religious purposes and was not sure whether it would be permissible on the store’s floor. She was unequivocally told not to hire Elauf. Despite scoring high marks on the “compotencies” required for the job, Elauf was denied the position for violating the store’s policy.
Elauf contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC) and together, they sued Abercrombie and Fitch for its discriminatory hiring practices. Abercrombie argued that its policy was not discriminatory because it prohibited all types of headgear, and so was not based on religion.
It also argued that the burden was on Elauf to request accommodation. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act provides that employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” to its employees so long as the accommodation does not cause undue hardship. The U.S Supreme Court held that employers must provide such accommodation even if the employee, or prospective employee did not ask for it.

Abercrombie has since changed its “look policy” to allow for certain kinds of headgear, including hijabs. In 2010, the EEOC sued JBS Swift, a meat packing plant with locations in Greely, Colorado, and Grand Island, Nebraska on behalf of 160 Somali immigrant employees. There are allegations of other Swift employees cursing these Somalis for being Muslim, throwing blood, meat, and bones at them, and interrupting their prayer breaks. The tension came to a head when employees requested that JBS accommodate their need to leave the production line to pray at or near sundown during the month of Ramadan. The employees were unable to come to a suitable agreement with JBS, and several employees were suspended or terminated for “job abandonment.” The EEOC filed suit and claimed that JBS discriminated against its Muslim employees on the basis of religion by engaging in a pattern or practice of retaliation, discriminatory discipline and discharge, harassment, and denying its Muslim employees reasonable religious accommodation.

The courts were a bit inconsistent deciding on this issue. While the Court granted summary judgement in favor of the Nebraska JBS plant and found that allowing its Muslim employees to leave the production line for evening prayer to be an “undue burden”, the case in Colorado is still winding through the legal system. Although the case was not definitively decided at the time of this publication, the Colorado Court did not hold that summary judgement was not appropriate for the Greely plant and further investigation was necessary in order to prove a system of discrimination.

These cases brought itself against the same company in different locations really prove that the courts look at these issues on a case by case basis. The results imply that employers that refuse an accommodation in violation of Title VI must provide specific evidence demonstrating the “undue burden” that the accommodation would cause.

Mahad Abass Mohammed and Adkiarim Hassan Bulshale were two Somali truck drivers for a company called Star Transport. When Star Transport asked them to deliver shipments containing alcohol, they refused and said their faith would not permit them to transport alcohol. Consequently, Mohammed and Bulshale were fired.

The EEOC sued on their behalf, and Mohammed and Bulshale were awarded $240,000. Star Transport admitted that it often “swapped loads between drivers” and that it would not have been difficult to accommodate the request. If there is no undue burden on the employer, it should do its best to accoomodate its religious employees.

Shaheed Khan was awarded $50,000 after McDonalds, his employer, refused to let him wear a beard to work. Khan was a crew trainer at McDonalds in Fresno, California. In 2005, he asked that if he could wear a beard to work and explained his religious reasoning. After he was told no, he quit.
The EEOC worked out the $50,000 settlement for Khan, and McDonalds agreed to reinforce training managers about its anti-discrimination policies.