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Manufacturer changes prayer-on-the-job policy

BRILLION, Wis. (AP) — Dozens of Muslim employees at a Wisconsin manufacturer say they are now out of a job after the company changed its prayer-on-the-job policy.

Brillion-based Ariens Co. changed the policy Thursday. Until then, Muslim employees were allowed to leave the production line twice a shift to pray two of their five daily required prayers. Workers would pray five minutes at a time, designating their duties to colleagues while they prayed.

But Ariens is now asking employees to pray during scheduled breaks. A company representative told WBAY-TV the “manufacturing environment does not allow for unscheduled breaks in production.”

The policy change affects 53 workers. Ten of those employees have indicated they wish to stay in their current positions under the new policy, the company said.

Ariens said the company “put a considerable amount of effort into finding a solution that allows for employees of Muslim faith to pray during work hours,” including meeting with members of the company’s Somali employee group and consulting with local Muslim faith representatives.

“We are open to any of the employees returning to work under the new policy or will look for openings in shifts that do not coincide with prayer time,” Ariens said in a statement. “We respect their faith, and we respect their decision regardless of their choice to return to work or not.”

On Saturday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, called on Ariens to allow Muslim workers to pray at work using the previous policy until the dispute is resolved.

“These types of accommodation disputes can be resolved in a spirit of respect for constitutionally-protected religious rights and for the legitimate needs of both employees and employers,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in a news release.

Ariens’ products include snow blowers and lawn mowers.

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