The global shipping company United Parcel Service and an Edina staffing agency are being sued for allegedly barring Muslim workers from fulfilling their prayer requirements at the UPS warehouse facility in Mendota Heights and then firing them.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) is representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed last week in Hennepin County District Court against UPS and Doherty Staffing Solutions on behalf of two line workers who were fired in June 2014.
Abdullahi Dahir and Abdifatah Hassan said they had been allowed to pray as needed while at work until UPS hired a new operations manager. That manager refused to let Muslim employees pray outside of regular break times and also warned them against using trips to the bathroom to fulfill their need to pray five times a day, the suit contends. Those who didn't comply were fired, the suit alleges.
"There is no lawful reason for any company to stop Muslims from praying when previously that company had allowed such prayers in a manner that did not impact the workplace," said CAIR-MN's civil rights director Amir Malik, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys. UPS and Doherty Staffing Solutions withdrew "this reasonable accommodation ... in order to get rid of the Muslim employees," Malik said in a statement announcing the suit.
In response to the suit, UPS said in a statement that it joined with Doherty in a thorough investigation "and found no evidence to support these allegations." When contacted Monday, a Doherty representative made no one available to respond and declined to take a message.
During a UPS employee meeting, the suit reads, operations manager Scott Klein asked for a show of hands from anyone needing to pray at work. Most Muslim workers raised their hands. Then, according to the lawsuit, "Mr. Klein stated that he wanted to replace all of the employees who had raised their hands."
Despite further talks between management and the plaintiffs, the Muslim workers were barred from meeting their prayer needs, sent home and told not to return if they insisted on praying at the required times.
"Faced with losing his job or losing his religion," CAIR-MN said in its statement announcing the suit, "Mr. Hassan and other Somali Muslim workers were forced out of their employment at the UPS facility."
Doherty is a defendant, the statement explained, because the agency "abdicated [its] role as a staffing agency and let the Muslims be terminated."
The suit claims violations of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and it seeks an unspecified amount of damages for alleged discrimination based on religious affiliation, race and national origin.