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Eight cab drivers claim their boss made them choose between prayer and their job

14 March 2012 General 34 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

By: Alison Morrow

ORLANDO – It’s often said, “A picture’s worth 1,000 words,” but for the man in a picture taken a few months ago at Orlando’s Premium Outlets, the picture was worth his job.

“The place that we pray at is over here,” Mohamed BenHassine said, pointing to an area of the outlet mall,  beside a dumpster.

BenHassine is a devout Muslim, which means praying five times a day for five to seven minutes.

He and seven other Star Taxi drivers claim management threatened to fire them if they prayed while on the job.

“Either you practice your religion or you lose your job,” Ben Hassine said. “I don’t think that’s fair in this country.”

Tuesday, BenHassine’s legal team will file a formal discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of eight Star Taxi drivers, all of whom claim they’ve been threatened by management for praying.

“For the average practicing Muslim, it’s like asking them to stop eating food,” said CAIR Director Hassan Shibly. “It’s integral. It’s the soul of our life.”

Under federal law, employers must make reasonable accommodations for religious practices, as long as it doesn’t create an undue burden on business.

In this case, BenHassine claims he prayed on his breaks, just like others who smoked or went to the bathroom.

“This is a clear case of violation of state, federal and local law,” said Hudson & Calleja attorney Michael Hanna, who is representing the drivers. “The most important thing is to bring this type of discrimination to light.”

ABC Action News tried several times to reach Star Taxi for comment, but no phone calls were returned.

BenHassine’s legal team believes the case stretches far beyond the dumpster where the driver’s prayed, and where BenHassine was fired January 8.

“It means they could essentially fire anybody of any faith for doing their prayers,” Shibly said. “We’re doing this case to protect the religious freedom of all Americans.”

The EEOC has 180 days to investigate, at which point BenHassine’s attorneys will file for a right to sue.

The suit asks for sensitivity training and financial reimbursement, but BenHassine says he just wants to work.

“If they let us pray without bothering us, yes why not? I’ll take my job back,” he said.

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34 Comments »

  1. CAIR is Arabician for “humbug”.

  2. “Under federal law, employers must make reasonable accommodations for religious practices, as long as it doesn’t create an undue burden on business.” true that is the law, but it’s a bad one and should be, along with ADA, repealed. what is “reasonable” is much to broad of term for law. it’s kind of like saying you can kill someone for “spreading mischief”. another poorly written law that some say is divine of all things. what if a muslim claimed to be super devote, as in he prays 50 times a day as was originally prescribed by god?

  3. what if your religion wants to kill endangered animals for a ceremony? resonable? no burden on business i guess. it also sounds kind of paganistic, animal sacrifice. wait the muslims sacrifice animals all the time. maybe ya’ll should try something for exotic then sheep and camels?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/13/northern-arapaho-tribe-permit_n_1342933.html

  4. It just never stops does it……

  5. I would think they could do better than beside a dumpster. If accommodation is made, and both parties agree, then the employee changes his mind for no good reason, then–sue away! However, this is an area where a tight reign should be kept. So-called “conscience” clauses, for instance, may eventually be used to discriminate against women who use birth control. People of conscience may have to choose their religions and accept that they will never have the job they want for that reason. That goes for Christians, as pharmacists are trying now to refuse to fill prescriptions for certain drugs. They should seek another line of work.

  6. Freedom of what..? Oh yeah only if it is christianity

  7. If all american muslims stop asking for permission from non-muslims to pray during work, and just do it like nike, this country would bow down and submit. UNITY!!!! They would have to wait for us to finish praying. They couldn’t fire 3million people for praying at the same time everyday. Then they would begin to see the benefit of muslim prayer, becuase they would recieve blessings for not interfering. But muslims in America have to stand for Allah, and unite, if they’re not to scared of what non-muslims might say about them. Prayer is GREATER than slee!!!!

  8. God is the boss, I hope that employer gets what is coming to him some jail time bastard.

  9. next they will tell them they can’t take a restroom break which could take longer than 5 minutes.

  10. I’m sorry to tell you but that isn’t religious discrimination. Employers do not have to provide one with times to pray.

  11. Reza: That is incorrect. Employers are required by law to accommodate for religion.

  12. @Reza but it is ILLEGAL for them to discriminate against their religion, which is what they’re doing. they did not disrupt their work day to pray–they prayed on their BREAKS, so yes, it IS discrimination.

  13. Reza the article stated he prayed during his break, now let’s see how many laws he broke.

  14. Most good places of employment would allow a “prayer room.”

  15. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in court. It should just be religious freedom for all, so long as no one infringes on others rights.

  16. Employer should get sued from here to kingdom come! [to coin a phrase]

  17. This is so wrong in so many levels! What are they thinking firing people over their religion? I wonder if it were reverse and Muslim bosses were firing their Christian employees, would this still get such little attention..

  18. as crazy as the “christian” right.

  19. Quite correct. Why should they have special priviledges for talking to themselves?

  20. I used to work with a Muslim gentleman and every Friday the place of employment accomodated him while he went to the mosque to pray during day. Our Jewish employees were able to take their holidays off. A good company allows for religion to be followed. This boss will be in deep doo doo for this stupidity…this is discrimination.

  21. In the past i knew muslims in the workplace and they never made special demands, brought in rugs, etc. At this point everyone knows muslims are allowed to postpone prayers.

    CAIR is involved, so the humbug flag is up. Somebody a Star they want to fight with? Or they just picked them to make another media stink?

  22. I know a guy who got fired for praying

  23. so much for freedom of religion……

  24. If they do want to pray on their breaks and lunch time then that is there time to use as they choose. However, as has been mentioned most people now know that Muslims are allowed to postpone prayers.

  25. Every person has the right to practice their religion as long as it does not place undue burden on the employer. In this case, the prayer which occurs 5 times a day and not 50 (50 would probably place an undue burden but this is not a common practice if practiced at all) most likely only happens three times during a workday. It also takes up less time than the average smoker takes to have a smoke break, and how many times a day do you think most smokers take breaks (hint – more than 3 times a day). This is discrimination and it should not be allowed. Oh, and why should someone be forced to “postpone” their prayers? I have not heard this “oh Muslims are allowed to postpone their prayers now” I have always heard how integral to their religion and how sacred it is to pray in the direction of Mecca 5 times per day. If Christianity called for this kind of devotion, I’d be willing to bet no employer in the US would have a problem with that…

  26. Besides postponing i believe there is also a “travel” mode – the prayers may be said simply while sitting or standing. So throwing down on rug is not necessary. Rug at work is humbug to annoy kuffar, start a lawsuit, impose the culture, etc. CAIR laps up that kind of thing.

  27. They rewrote US law to prevent CAIR from doing lawsuits for gain and to ruin businesses. This is not about some simple devout people who want to pray.

  28. BenHassine is a devout Muslim, which means praying five times a day for five to seven minutes. That means he also takes 5 breaks a day for a total of 25-35 minutes. And he gets meal break? Labor laws specify that if working more than 5 consecutive hours employees get a 1/2 hour break. So now we are talking 55- 65 minutes of down time. Thats an hour or more of break time employer has to pay employee. No wonder nothing gets done outside Israel in the middle east. That adds up to over 5 1/2 hrs of lost work a week. Wow!

  29. Chris the prayers are at different times of the day/night they are not restricted to american work hours so that throws your theory rather flushes it down you know where. As for the middle east other than spelling it do you know more that they don’t know? They do have regular work days minus prayer time.

  30. Muslims are allowed to postpone prayers that is fairly well known.But if they do feel the need to pray during work hours they like all other employees can use their breaks and lunch period which is their time. Otherwise they can postpone the prayer until after their work day and pray on their free time.As for smoking,my employer no longer hires smokers and no one is allowed to smoke on company property and that is legal.

  31. kmartin,

    the 50 times is from the hadith of muhammad visiting heaven. i was just being silly. know one really believes that one? btw they have combs of gold in heaven. why gold holds any value in heaven i will never know, for i’m destine for the fire of which man and stones are the fuel. lol your right smoke breaks can take longer than prayers. i think they say smokers average 7 minutes a cig. but i know several waiters who can mow one down in about 2 minutes. anyways you can fire someone for taking to many breaks, for any reason. well not any reason apperantly. again, this is bad law. if your employer chooses not to accomadate your idiosyncrasies of any nature, so be it. electolux shouldn’t be forced to schedule there production around ramadan, abercrombie and finch shouldn’t be forced to but a woman in a headscarf on their sales floor is they don’t want to. a school district shouldn’t be force to give leaves of abstance to accomadate hajj. hospitals shouldn’t be forced to provide gender specific doctors. disneyland…it’s a headscarf thing again…it goes on and on.

    “If Christianity called for this kind of devotion, I’d be willing to bet no employer in the US would have a problem with that…” are you insane? i’ll take that bet.

  32. http://www.faithinallah.org/sahih-muslim-book-4-prayer-salat/

    wow, a whole mess of rules. no perfume, no looking up, no garlic (the wops aren’t going to make good muslims) no talking (even to say bless you to a sneezer) lol

    Book 8, Number 1282:

    Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace he upon him) said: When it is very hot, say (the noon prayer) when the extreme beat passes away, for intensity of beat is from the exhalation of Hell.

    Book 4, Number 1309:

    ‘Ali reported: When it was the day (of the Battle) of Ahzab, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: May Allah fill their graves and houses with fire, as they detained us and diverted us from the middle prayer, till the sun set.

    don’t divert a muslim or it’s the hell fire for you. no soup for you!!

  33. @Chris 3 of those prayers are done at home: one before the sun rises and 2 after the sun sets. Do you research or your lack of intelligence will show.

  34. Mike
    I believe Muhammad was convinced by Moses (AS) to return to God all those times to limit the prayer to 5 times.

    And the rules
    No heavy perfume to distract someone
    No looking up because you need to stay focused on understanding the words you are uttering
    Why talk if you’re talking to God

    When a muslim prays, he puts his hand to his ears as if to throw the world behind him. He ignores everything else and concentrates on praying to God. Imagine Im praying with heavy makeup, jangly jewelry, perfume and kept talking about something other than the Quran. Its like “oh God bless us as you blessed Abraham- sammy get outta the pantry!- and his family.”

    Imagine how stupid id look. I saw this chick praying with her sleeves pulled up to her elbows, she kept swinging back and forth, humming, and looking behind her. Thats not offering prayer toGod.

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