The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Electrolux
Group announced the voluntary resolution of a religious-accommodation complaint
filed on behalf of 165 Somali workers who alleged they were subjected to unlawful
employment discrimination based on their religion and national origin.
According to the complaint, Electrolux, a maker of appliances, was denying
religious accommodations to Somali employees who are Muslim and treating them
differently than similarly situated Somali employees with regards to the terms
and conditions of their employment.
Pursuant to the tenets of the Islamic faith, Muslims, male and female, must
offer at least five daily prayers. Two of these prayers, the early morning prayer
or Salatu-l-Fajr and the Sunset Prayer or Salatu-l-Maghrib, must be observed
within a restricted time period of between one and two hours.
Muslim employees of the Electrolux Home Products plant in St. Cloud, Minnestoa,
alleged that they were discriminated against because of their religious beliefs
and observance when they were disciplined for using an unscheduled break traditionally
offered to line employees on an as-needed basis to observe their sunset prayer.
The resulting agreement affords Muslim employees with an opportunity to observe
their sunset prayer. It also provides for a Somali translator at specified occasions
and for policies and procedures to be available in Somali. Diversity training
will be held for corporate managers, line leaders, and supervisors. The company
will also make a monetary donation to the Islamic Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota,
to provide needed services to Somali families in the St. Cloud area.
The agency is hailing the agreement as a prime example of how employers should
work cooperatively with the federal agency when subjected to a discrimination
"The voluntary resolution of this case represents a significant victory
for both the employees and the employer," says Chester V. Bailey, director
of the EEOC's Milwaukee district office. "We applaud Electrolux for being
a model employer and for going beyond what is legally required to create a better
work environment for all of its employees."
The agency notes that over the past decade, religious-discrimination complaints
with EEOC offices nationwide have increased by 85 percent, from 1,388 in fiscal
year 1992 to 2,572 in FY 2002.