Last year, Electrolux agreed to adjust its break schedule to accommodate Muslim employees working the evening shift at its St. Cloud plant. The agreement allowed workers two 10-minute breaks for prayers and 30 minutes at sunset to allow employees to break the daily fasts that mark the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The EEOC mediated last year’s agreement in a process that was hailed as a model of cooperation between the employer, employees and the federal government.
Problem solved, right? Not so fast.
This year, Electrolux proposed two 15-minute breaks during the shift and a 20-minute lunch break. Twelve Muslim workers—joined by the Council on American-Islamic Relations—complained to the EEOC, claiming the 20-minute lunch break does not allow workers enough time to complete their prayers and break their fast.
About 350 Muslims work the evening shift at Electrolux.
Last year, the workers filed their complaint in July and were able to reach an agreement before Ramadan began. This year, Electrolux announced the schedule on Aug. 1, the first day of Ramadan. As a result, the issue was not resolved during Ramadan, which ended Aug. 30. The claimants hope to have a solution in place for next year.
Electrolux spokesperson Tony Evans said the schedule was the one preferred by most of the workers on the shift. A representative for the International Association of Machinists District 165, which represents Electrolux workers in St. Cloud, claims the union had received no complaints and was unaware of the EEOC filing.
The EEOC has not yet weighed in on the matter.