Sixteen Muslim men are suing Brose Jefferson auto supplier in Warren for religious discrimination. They say they "involuntarily resigned" after their employer forced them to choose between their religion and their jobs.
The incident took place in May, when the men made a request regarding their daily meal break. The men worked a 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift, and their standard half-hour break was at 7 p.m. During Ramadan, some Muslims choose to fast until sundown, and they asked their employer to push their meal break to 9 p.m.
According to their representing law firm, Pitt, McGehee, Pamer & Rivers, the men had been employed at Brose for several years, and their request for their meal break change during Ramadan was always accommodated in the past.
According to the men, this year their employer confronted them at an all-staff meeting before a work shift. Their employer told the men their request would not be accommodated, and that they'd have to choose whether their religion or their jobs were more important.
All sixteen men quit.
Cary McGehee is one of the attorneys representing the men. She says Brose Jefferson is in violation of state and federal nondiscrimination laws.
"The law is very clear that an employer has an obligation to provide it's employees with reasonable accommodation related to their religious beliefs, and [Brose] failed to do so in this case," McGehee said.
McGehee specifically cited Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act. Both these acts protect against religious discrimination. She says this request was a simple, minor accommodation that would have caused no burden to the company.
"From our independent investigation and from the discussions with our clients, there was no difference in production needs this year that would make it unduly burdensome for the company to provide this accommodation," McGehee said.
The workers have filed a complaint against Brose Jefferson with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Brose Jefferson did not have anyone available for an interview, but they did release this statement:
Brose carefully considers the needs of all its employees, and we are proud that Brose Jefferson’s workforce is one of the most racially, ethnically, gender, generationally and religiously diverse workplaces in Michigan. Because Brose values the contributions of every member of our team, reasonably accommodating observant Muslims during Ramadan is not new, nor objectionable, to Brose or the Brose Jefferson plant. Unfortunately, this year, a small percentage of Muslim production and temporary agency workers were not satisfied with Brose’s proposed accommodations during Ramadan. They chose to walk off the job rather than discuss other accommodations that would not unduly impact Brose’s production.
Brose does not intend to litigate this matter in the press, but does contend that the facts as stated in press release issued by the former workers’ attorneys are incorrect. Brose intends to vigorously defend any claims brought against the company.
We wish to thank our existing workforce, many of whom are Muslim, for their continued hard work and dedication to the team, the company and our customers.
This story has been updated with a statement from Brose Jefferson.