Muslim Workers File Complaint Against Westerville Company, Say They Lost Jobs For Praying


UPDATED: Wednesday March 27, 2013 11:00 PM

A group of 18 Muslims have filed a federal complaint that states they were fired over praying at work.

For Muslims, prayer is a sacred ritual, one that's done five times a day at specific times.

A group of Muslims who worked at Exel Inc., in Westerville, says their bosses denied them religious freedom by not giving them the proper time to pray at work.

"We feel it's very important for people to have the ability to practice faith at work," said Romin Iqbal, staff attorney with the Columbus Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group that helped the 18 Muslims file federal complaints.

All the workers had been employed in part of the company's warehouse in Columbus, which handles packing and shipping.

The workers claim Exel wanted them to pray only during their breaks.  The group says their break times didn't fit in with their prayer schedule.

"The company just said this is the company policy, and we will just not negotiate with you and this is what it is," Iqbal said.

In a statement Wednesday night, Exel strongly denied the allegations.

"Exel has not terminated 18 people at the site referenced, and Exel has not terminated anyone for religious practices or requests for accommodations," the statement said.  "Additionally, we have made appropriate accommodations at that site. Exel goes to great lengths to ensure employees religious practices are understood and, as appropriate, accommodated. In both policy and practice, Exel has established a culture in which discrimination of any kind is not tolerated."

Iqbal said the workers want their jobs back.

Exel said that once it receives the actual complaint, it will respond accordingly.

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