Accommodating Workplace Praying
IrisD 97 Posts
I just read an article in the latest Jane magazine about how practicing Muslims often feel they have to "sneak off and hide" in order to pray during working hours. Some use unlocked storage rooms, stairwells, unused conference rooms, etc. The article said that some employees don't tell their managers that need a place to pray because they don't want to be seen as "different" or are afraid to ask for an accommodation or of discrimination.
I was wondering if this issue ever came up in someone's workplace, or how it would be handled if it did.
Unless circumstances simply didn't allow it--and I would guess they'd be rather unique circumstances--if I was approached by someone who requested a designated place to pray, I'd try to accommodate the request if I could. What harm would there be in allowing an unused conference room as a place for someone to do this? It wouldn't be disrupting the business--it would be in a private, enclosed area, etc.--and what's the alternative? If the individual or individuals ask you for this and you say "no", and if they're determined to pray, what will they do? Will they now leave the premises to find a place to pray? Will they do it in a place where it might distract others or impede them (for example, you mentioned a stairwell)?
I agree in theory that the request for a place to pray sounds reasonable BUT it should be made clear that any time spent praying should be on the employee's break or lunch time (not during time they should be working). As such, the frequency and length of the proposed prayer sessions could make a difference. I think that in deciding whether to allow this depends on the specifics of the request.
I think the case involving Electrolux from a few years ago is interesting. Somali employees who are Muslim accused the company of failing to offer a reasonable accommodation so they could conduct their daily prayers. Here's the EEOC's press release on the resolution: