BRILLION – Ariens Co.’s CEO is standing by the firings of seven Muslim employees, and said from what he’s heard, his company’s rules are normal practice for manufacturers in the United States.
“People figure out how to practice their faith, within breaks,” Dan Ariens said.
The company fired the employees, and saw 14 others resign, after it started enforcing a long-established policy that limits employees to two scheduled breaks during shifts. Muslim employees had been taking unscheduled breaks for their daily prayers, one of the pillars of the Islam faith. After an increasing number of Muslim employees led Ariens to crack down on the schedule due to lost production, some claimed religious discrimination, linking the situation to the larger current political climate.
But Ariens said the only company he knows of that allows Muslims to pray whenever they want is based in Malaysia — and pays much lower wages.
Ariens said he’s heard from many fellow manufacturers that his practice is typical.
The mistake that Ariens made, if any, was being lenient in the first place. The normal practice is for people of all faiths to comply with workplace rules. Ariens made an exception for its Muslim employees for a while, but decided it didn’t work for the business. The change in policy is prompting an uproar whereas if they had simply never made an exception, nobody would care.