North Texas has half a million Muslims among its population, many of them working in engineering and information technology jobs. According to a recent report in the Dallas Morning News, their employers are starting to recognize and accommodate those employees' religious requirement of praying five times a day facing Mecca.
In Dallas, Texas Instruments has made a prayer room available, American Airlines is allowing use of a multipurpose room for Muslim prayer, and Nortel offers several quiet rooms for the purpose. In Plano, Electronic Data Systems also has a prayer room available. Until now, according to the paper, employees in these workplaces would use tactics such as ducking down into their cubicles to pray, or finding an empty stairway.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces the nation's employment discrimination laws, recently released a comprehensive guide for employers on avoiding religious bias in the workplace. On the question of allowing devout Muslims a place for their daily religious observance, the guide states that if an employee needs to use a quiet area for prayer during break time, the employer should accommodate the request unless it would pose an undue hardship. If the employer allows employees to use the facilities at issue for nonreligious activities not related to work, it may be difficult for the employer to demonstrate that allowing the facilities to be used in the same manner for religious activities is not a reasonable accommodation or poses an undue hardship. [Link]
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